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Day 1
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Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Senshuraku Comments (PZ Kelly reporting)
When I decided to move back to America, ostensibly to put my kids in a better position to succeed in life, but in reality to put ME in a position to see more publicly displayed cleavage, of both the chest and asscrack sort (thank you, tasteless American hotties!), I was quite unprepared for the onslaught of technology in the field of speech recognition software. I had long been comfortable with the idea of free international video phone calls via Skype and all that, but I can now talk to my phoneputer? I mean, DAYum, "Star Trek" is starting to seem less like a hippydippy trippy little sci-fi program and more like a blueprint for the future! Word to your (Vulcan) mother!

After a year of getting used to it, I am now fairly proficient in the use of Speech Function on my android. So when I rolled into Japan town a couple of weeks back to see my old pals, I came off like some New Age warlockian American badass, bustin out texts and emails with nothing but my dulcet tones. Let's just say everyone was duly impressed.

Then when I read Harvye's Day 6 report, I decided to give it a go myself, and venture forth to the venue and watch the sumos on Day 15, typing most of it out live but also throwing in some action splashed "speech reporting" to give yall a flavor of the goings on.


Speaking of splash. (Sound of honey badger being returned to cage, zipper going up, urinal flushing) Awwwggggghhh, man that felt good. Im here in the toilet of the train station down the street from the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, after a 2 hour, 8 beer trip from my little island in the sea to Naniwa, about to saunter over to the. . .Okay, dude, yeah, take care now (sound of laughter) there's a spot on your pantleg--kidding. . .sorry, we peed next to each other and chatted a bit. Friendly city, Osaka.

Okay, now I'm walking down the street and there are a lot of people lining the way and--great Caesars ghost, look at the titties on that chick, holy mother of mercy--and, um, there are, where was I? Oh right, tons of fans waiting to catch a glimpse of their favorite wrestlers as they make their way into the gym from large vans with darkened windows that pull up and discharge three to six huge mofos. People bouncing and weaving and snapping photos like they've spotted Beiber on the Teacup Ride at Disneyland--no way! that girl is NOT bending over like this in front of me. What is she doing, looking through her bag? Those stretch pants look like they've been airbrushed on. I gotta go to the toilet again. This time need a stall. For about ten minutes--Hell, just missed Hakuho entering with his entourage. Oh, well.

Inside now. Noting location of nearest beer stall. Hey, look! A green telephone. Anyway. . .Hai. Seki desu. Hai. Sumasen. . .Sorry, talking to the ticket checker dude. Finally entering the main arena. Not a bad seat in the house here in the City of Ten Thousand Bridges (and a traffic signal at each end of every single one of the fuckers (sound of laughter). Scanning area of seats I am in. Noting three cute little college aged chicks four rows up. Please please PLEASE let my seat be behind them. Checking ticket. WTF? Oh, that's my train receipt.

Damn, several rows higher and to their left, but not ALL bad as they are in my general FOV as I watch the dohyo. Cool.

Down by the dohyo now. Juryo going on. Trying to find an empty seat I can pretend is mine until someone comes over to inform the childish foreigner that he is mistaken. Right here. Konnichiwa. Furansu-jin desu. Bonjour.

Yes. Oh, damn, nice throw, dude! No idea who that is, but he ought to be handed the trophy. . .Gomen nasai. Wah Car Ee Mah Sennn De Shee Ta. (whispering) Have to use horrendous pronunciation. Can't let them know I'm fluent in their language; undermines my role as Clueless Gaijin. . .(to old woman smiling with restrained relief at me) Enjoy the show. . .(walking away from seats--okay, being escorted away, whatthefuckEVER). Hey, hey, can you hook a brother up? Where's the beer? Biru wa?? Odd ee got oh.

If I'm not mistaken, I think that was Kitazakura who just gently booted me. He gave me a longing look, my boyish visage perhaps carrying the day.

To hell with it, I'm going to my assigned seat now. Wait, hold the phone. Gonna stand here in the aisle a bit and subtly stare down at the chick sitting a foot in front of me. SHWEET down the blouse shot. Girl you know it's true, ooh ooh ooh I love you. . .Ouch. Got caught looking at her by her kid. Stupid kid.

Allright, in my seat now. Two of the college hotties are not around, but the third is there looking forlorn. Should I. . .? Nah, I'm here for yall. Better man up and get my laptop ready.

There we are. Legs spread wide discouraging the people next to me from even sitting here, let alone trying to use the shared armrest, neither the aroma of alcohol nor the occasional release of flatulence hindering my selfish goals.

Here they come, in all their peacockery. First the West. Streaming out like runway models FAR too ugly to sell a damned thing. Circling the dohyo. Lift their skirts and PEEKaboo, they're gone. Now the Eastsiders. Looking forMIDable. Now here come three guys, and one's. . .one's got a weapon of some sort. THE FUCK?? (Screaming in two languages) Kitsukete! Look out! He's gonna hit the champion!

Wait. . .what. . .Odd Ee Got Oh. (whispering) Lady in front of me just told me in fluent English that they are accompanying the Yokozuna and are not, in fact, a danger. Talk about embarrassed! Hey (whistling to vendor) One large please. Ichiban shibori. Seriously? Asahi only? Damn these chains. Give me two.

Okay, first bout. Kotoyuki is looking to avoid double digits in losses, which would not do him well at W12. Luckily he has in Ikioi a man who has clinched his KK, so unlikely that he will go all Tasmanian Devil just to win. Huge tachi-ai by Snowy Thing (Kotoyuki), and lucky he is that Ikioi is staying right in front of him, thrusting his hands at the upper chest to try to get in. Now Ikioi is attempting a backward stepping arm slapping maneuver that is always a good idea if you don't really care about winning. Abominable takes the bout by oshi-dashi, and Ikioi looks properly chastised for choosing a weak strategy. No biggie, I'll just wait for the replay on the giant screens over the . . .WHAT?? No replays in the arena? Are you effing kaying me? You mean I have to PAY ATTENTION to every bout AS ITS HAPPENING? Sorry, people, but this report is going to be a leetle incomplete. (Sumotalk Reports: Worth What You Pay For Them.)

Kyokutenho is looking like he wants to armbar Amuuru out, but its not going his way. . .nope, the lanky Russian grabs the front mawashi and moves the former Yusho winner and part-time Uber employee back and out like a pizza pie for his 7th win. From E16, I'd like to see the NSK drop him only half a rank down and let him have one more shot at the top division in May. I mean, come on! Dude was 2-7 and finished 7-8. How many times do we see someone with a shitty early record just throw in the towel, and NOT battle back? Besides, the sumos need more foreigners. Urp.

W16 Chiyomaru has his eight wins but he is serious as he squats down here, looks like he wants more. Osunaarashi is a pretty 10-4, so it ought to be a slugfest. Booming tachi-ai won by Chiyopet. But oh snap, the Egyptian slides a bit to his left after the clash and literally rolls out the barrel that is the Kokonoe grappler. Mark the rematch in Tokyo on your calendar. I'll bet Chiyomaru approaches it a tad differently. Still, good sumos.

Next we have Arawashi looking for #8 and Kitataiki with 9 coming in. Hmm? Wonder who is going to be more "up" for this one? Tachi-ai clean, Kitataiki moves forward but you know what dude, giving up the moro-zashi looks bad no matter HOW you do it. Arawashi steamrolls his foe back for the kachi-koshi. Thank you sir, may I have another?!

Criminy, I really want to watch the next bout twixt Tokitenku and Sadanofuji, but I've got to see a man about some raw horse meat, pronto! Back to speech mode as you accompany me to the toilets.

Trying to walk steadily and smoothly, which puts me in great danger of ambulating in a manner the JPese call "chidori ashi" or "little birdy feet." Sad fact of life is when you have to THINK about how you're walking, you are fucked. That's weird. I could have sworn there was a toilet here. Ill circumlocute the perimeter till I find one. Is that dude. . .what is he DOING? Daijoubu? Shit, it's a woman. Outta here. Was she throwing up in that can?

Finally, a toilet. Once more into the breach. Step up. Play it cool. Don't look at the guy next to me. Im counting seven urinals, he's at #2, the rest are empty. WHY am I standing at #3? Gotta rethink the beer consumption, is the lesson I'm taking away from this. Damn, dude's cock isn't that tiny, contrary to what you normally find. Must be the changing JPese diet. Course, he could be a Shower and not a Grower. Anyway. . .

Back in my seat. The college girls just looked at me, I swear. They're giggling. And there's five of them now, holding up "Endo Kournikova" signs. Oh wait, I'm all the way on the opposite side of the arena! Up and out of my seat, thinking about my gait again.

Allright, that's better. Fluent Lady just told me Tokitenku blew it, slipped out of a nodowa that Sadanofuji laid on him and had a chance at an inside right but was denied and forced out.

Two of my perennial faves going at it now, Shohozan and Yoshikaze, both with terrible records if my eyes and JPese reading skills do not deceive me. The Golden One has ONE win? Starbuck with FOUR? Yoshikaze comes with a hard head konking, and it seems to bother Shohozan, who is blasted back and out tout de suite.

With nine wins at W13, Sokokurai is certainly not going to "release the hounds" today and risk injury. His foe, bandaged up Homarefuji, was once 5-1, a leaderboard fixture if you will, and today he's looking for measly win number six. Right from the get go Shady Garage (Sokokurai) abandons his forward motion and starts circling to his right, but Homarefuji stays with him, and easily slaps him out. But oh dear, Homarefuji is limping on that bandaged leg. Fighting Spirit, can I get a witness?

Kaisei is make-koshi taking on Toyohibiki, who sits 7-7 and would like that 8th win as badly as I would like one of those college girls to offer me a ride nestled snugly and deeply in her fur lined jinrikisha. Big nodowa from The Nikibi at the jump, but Kaisei aint having any and resists like a bull being led to the streets of Pamplona Virus Spain. Toyohibiki smartly steps to the side and now Kaisei goes kaflootin across the ring. But what's this? He is able to arrest himself and now attempts the desperation underarm pit swingdown that looks to have worked! Nice comeback. That's at LEAST a mono-ii. Huh? No MIB getting up? Wow. Guess they figure the big Sao Paolo native is already kaput, so might as well let the other guy have his KK. Can't really get my nuts in a torque about it. I mean, this ain't Hakuho and Kisenosato.

Gagamaru comes in at 13-2 and his countenance as he stares across at countryman Tochinoshin is all like, bi-i-i-i-itch, I'm GONNA get the jun-yusho even if I have to go through YOU to do it. The Private, for his part, looks all, Oh yeah? Bring it AHWN, you butterballed motherfu. . .I'm pretty sure that the second hottest of the college girls just KISSED the one on her right! I spose it's a good thing that I am WAY too drunk to get a flash boner.

Anywho, Tochinoshin is standing up the W15 and tackle sledding him back, but lord knows it aint easy, and now the Private grabs a left belt and pulls him forward and off balance, closing the distance quickly and sniffing for the knockout yori-kiri. Gaga does his best Musashimaru lean in imitation to try and delay the inevitable, but the W4 remains stalwart and lifts The Lord back and out. He won't be in the sanyaku come May, but when he's healthy and focused, Tochinoshin is a rikishi no one wants to meet on any given day.

That dude is selling ramen. Bet it's not hot enough for my tastes. Fuck it. Hora! Chotto! Happyakku en? Takai, naaa! Okay, I'll take one. Doomo.

I'm man enough to admit when I'm wrong. These noodles are SMOKING hot. But my mouth is numb from so many beers, so no problem. Broth is yummy. Crap, spilled some on my pants. Right at the crotch. Do I LET the college girls see that when I get up next, or not? Will it hurt or help me if they believe they make me wet?

Oops, missed one. Fat white guy and a hairy guy. Hairy guy won. Sorry, if I sober up when I get home I'll check to see who it was for ya.

Kyokushuho drew the wrong fella in this lottery as he is given the thankless task of reaching his KK vs. Takarafuji, who is looking for the same thing. A chesty tachi-ai leads to the E10 getting moved back by the W2, and now Scratch Off has the upper hand bigtime as Kyokushuho's feeble attempts at swiping Takarakuji's face amount to zip as the W2 settles in with firm outside left/inside right belts. Just like that it's over and Third Butterface Window Cleaner (Kyokushuho) becomes the first 7-7 rikishi to go down. Takarafuji will likely move up 1.5 rank to E1. May is going to be a great basho, as Mike or Harvye pointed out previously.

Wow wow wow what? Did I just nod off? I saw Sadanoumi mounting the dohyo and now I'm looking at Chiyootori squatting down on the same side. Too embarrassed to ask Fluent Lady, and I may be paranoid, but EVERYONE around me seems to be making a concerted effort to NOT look my way. I truly hope I wasn't touching myself in my sleep. Or worse, moaning in JPese. Kimochiii? Kimochiii? Okiiiii??

Chiyootori has no chance, imo, because Ichinojo is just too strong, too large, and let's face it, too Mongolian. As I suspected. Ichinojo has him wrapped up from the gun, and Chiyootori is hanging on but no, the E12 gets fuhLATTENED on the tawara by the W1. Looks like he is injured, to boot. Can't get up.

Bummer. Chiyootori got helped out of the place by his tsuke-bito and some guy in a fashionable blue factory jacket. As for me, I'm feeling fiddle fit for the final six bouts. I've been holding in my whistle, which is you may nor may not know is deafening, for the right match. Could this tussle between Tochiohzan and Toyonoshima be the one? Well, Tochiohzan has just driven into Toyonoshima's face like he's trying to tattoo it, and Tugboat has slipped/circled away, and now a quick but ill-conceived snatch at Oh Snap's topknot, and boom, he slides down Tochiohzan's leg like a fat little fireman answering the alarm. Tochiohzan secures a likely Komusubi spot for May from E1, but given that he beat Myogiryu and two Ozeki, he might be promoted past Myogiryu, whom they may move laterally only from West Komusubi to East, and put The Mongolith at West Komusubi.

Then again, considering the manner in which Myogiryu lost today to 7-7 Tokushoryu, they may reward the Komusubi for being a team player. Myogiryu had Tokushoryu dead to rights, driving him back and to the edge with ease and a firm belt grip, but relented and let himself be flung down and around in the goofiest pile of malarkey I've witnessed in quite some time. Haven't seen something this phony since I googled "nude pics of Mother Theresa."

So every single guy who needed his kachi-koshi got it, except for the one guy who was fighting another 7-7 rikishi. Bell curve, be damned! This is sumo, sunny jim.

Tamawashi and Takekaze up next. Time to go buy my souvenirs. Oh shit, I just stood up too quickly and swooned and had to put my hand on the TOP of Fluent Lady's head. I'm mortified. She looked at me but surprisingly didn't say a thing. Then again, maybe she always dreamed of a gaijin placing his hand forcefully on the top of her head.

Not a lot of people out here at the moment. Man, I look good in that window. Got dark fast. Ah, here's the shop. Excuse me. How much is this? I said, how much is. . .oh, sorry. Nanbo desu ka? For a pencil? With no eraser?? Iranai. Kore wa? 10 yen? For Kotomitsuki's rookie card? I'll TAKE it.

Gotta hurry back. Terunofuji and Goeido and going at it. Just made it. Goeido keeps his arms in tightly, so Terunofuji is obliged to give him moro-zashi. Being taller and larger, he wraps the Ozeki up and leans in on him. Goeido has the belt and almost yanks him out, but the Sekiwake brings it back to center. Goeido tries to yank him around and Terunofuji drives him backward to the edge, but the Osaka native twists and escapes, only to be bearhugged across to the opposite side of the dohyo and out? No, once again Goeido manages to resist and dance them both around, but this moro-zashi hug looks like it is going to be the death of him. Once more the Mongolian drives the Ozeki back, and this time? Yes, as Goeido resists, the Sekiwake yanks him forward and slings him down, a last second leg grab by the Ozeki doing nothing to stop him from crashing to the clay. Very nice bout. Cut loose with my whistle and the three unihoneys are staring daggers my way. What? Whaddido? At any rate, Goeido gave it all he had, but Terunofuji's balance and footwork were exemplary.

As is the pair of baZOOMS on that little doll over to my left whom I have NOT noticed until now. Ai chee wa wa. What a piece of as. . .the last of this tourney's three Ozeki matchups begins, I'm having a difficult time finding within myself a shred of caring. I just watched a great bout, and will this come even close? Geeku brings a smashing tachi-ai, which Kisenosato absorbs well enough and is able to get the outer right hand belt, this could be it, but Geeku starts a chuggin and he drives The Kid back to the straw, but Kisenosato anchors his feet on the bales and bends but does not break, and has now managed to force the action back to center for a short respite as the crows applauds and now Geeku, who has been bouncing on his toes for 15 straight seconds, knows he's tired out and backs up, pulling Kisenosato along with him, but as the Sadogatake man tries to press down on his foe while slightly armbarring him, Kisenosato keeps his feet underneath him to win by yori-kiri press out.

Not a horrible fight by any means, and despite their shitty records, both men had KK, so with no gifts needing wrapping, we were able to see a straight up bout. For what it's worth.

Finally, the match none of us had been waiting for until Kublai lost on Day 13. Let's see what kind of match the two Yokozuna bring for our entertainment. Ten will get you twenty it will be something other than their typical semi-lengthy yotsu battle. I'm going to watch this one first and then comment.

Well, a great bout indeed. Harumafuji came at the tachi-ai like Hakuho had peed on his yurt. As a postman would a pitbull, Hakuho slapped fiercely and frantically in an effort to keep HowDo at bay. However, the junior Yokozuna was able to blast his way in and grab both the outside left and inside right belt, but giving up the outside right belt to Hakuho in the process.

Now here is where you can see the difference between the two wrestlers. If Hakuho has both belts, game is over. But Harumafuji cannot seal the deal on raw power alone, not against the GOAT. Knowing this, Hakuho was content to lean in on his pal and wait for that moment when he would be able to get his left hand on the little bugger's belt and win the match. Howdo wisely kept his hips far back, bent down at a 90 degree angle but with his head at the same time firmly ensconced into Hak's right chest.

A chess match ensued as HowDo stayed hunkered over holding two belts with Hakuho standing almost upright holding one. Hakuho tired of the bout at the 1:15 mark and tried to kick Harumafuji's leg and swing him down, but it resulted in HowDo being able to charge forward and nearly drive Hakuho out. The Yokozuna resisted and forced it back to center, in the same position as before.

After a lengthy breath by both, Hakuho lowered his hips slightly and lifted up on his countryman, trying to swing him around, but Harumafuji resisted and was able to drive Hakuho back. Hakuho twisted him around and in the process got what he had had been looking for all along, that inside left belt grip. A couple of seconds of making sure the grip was a good'n and he just shoved forward and drove his opponent out and over the straw.

Because a Yokozuna had been defeated, I stood up and chucked my zabuton as far as I could, which turned out to be only as far as the three college girls, who came over and started kicking and punching me, calling me horrible names having to do with perversion and lechery and I think unlawful public self-stimulation.

I wish I could tell you what happened after that, but the next thing I recall, I woke up in my bed back home, with a scabbed over gash on the back of my head, ironically about the size of the typical JPese college aged female's...

Now if THAT don't make you laugh, don't know what will! See yall in Tokyo, yo!

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Day 14 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
I root for greatness. A friend of mine says this a character flaw. Many years ago we were talking baseball; I lamented that the dominant, big-power Oakland Athletics of the day won only one of three straight World Series they participated in. He thought my desire to see the A's run up a string of championships showed an anti-democratic, authoritarian streak and that I should root for underdogs.

He was wrong. I do root for the underdog. As bad as Shohozan has been, I always hope he'll overcome his stature and somehow become a sanyaku stalwart (he won't). And I loathe front-runnerism.

But when I see something that is truly great, that awes me, I will root for that every time. Isn't that what professional sports at its peak and playoff levels is all about? I love minor league baseball, and I enjoy watching the lower division wrestlers in their a.m. matches when I get a chance. But when it's championship time, I am there to see greatness and skill at its best. It's fun to be a part of something like that.

I realized how hard I was rooting for Hakuho yesterday when I tensed up during his bout with Terunofuji, scooted to the edge of my seat, and did Rodney Dangerfield gyrations in my mind to spiritually help him get Terunofuji out. Didn't work, but paradoxically I felt good afterwards though he lost: I hadn't had that this-matters feeling in some time. Mike said earlier and I agree: you can just feel it with Terunofuji: here is something special in the making. Ichinojo wowed us with a rookie basho in 2014 in which he threatened for the crown, and now Terunofuji is wowing us with a rookie sanyaku yusho threat.

Yes, it would be healthier for the sport if there was more diversity in the nationalities involved in this upcrop of exciting talent, but when you're rooting for greatness that doesn't matter: we should count our lucky kinboshi that the challengers to Hakuho are finally loaded in the delivery van. I like and respect Harumafuji and Kakuryu, but as potential rivals they were mirages. Terunofuji's yusho chances are still probably no better than a mirage either, but he's making it fun.

Looking toward the yusho, this appeared in Sumotalk on Day 3: "Who? Who? Dare I say...Terunofuji? Dread I say...Goeido? Way, way too early to make predictions like this, but let's do it anyway: how about a three way yusho race, with Goeido fading at the end but getting his 13, and real drama with Hakuho stepping aside for The Future. Let's hope. Remember, Osaka is traditional the wild-‘n-crazy basho of the calendar." And minus the Goeido silliness, here we are. Thank you Terunofuji, and all hail the Osaka basho.

Let's build to the top.

M12 Chiyootori (10-3) vs. M14 Sadanofuji (8-5)
Bouncy Butt (Chiyootori) has had a nice tournament and got a very nice yori-kiri win here. There was all kinds of wild arm action to start it, but Chiyootori had his thrusts going to the right place: the neck. This was used to set up a belt grip, and when he got it he drew Sadanofuji in tight while staying low himself; Sadanofuji was then helpless and Chiyootori moved him on out. I look forward to him taking another crack at jo'i competition next time.

M11 Osunaarashi (9-4) vs. M12 Kotoyuki (5-8)
Another new tactic from Big Sand Storm (Osunaarashi) today as he went for a neck hold first but couldn't get anything effective. He then went for a pull, which worked very well, I'm sorry to say, as Kotoyuki ran all the way over to the tawara and twirled around; he was easy oshi-dashi fodder. I am not sorry to say a loss tomorrow and Kotoyuki is almost certain to be sent to Juryo, where his self-adoring antics will perhaps be more easily backed up by actual results in the ring.

M15 Gagamaru (10-3) vs. M11 Kyokutenho (6-7)
Gagamaru was looking confident, and with his record he should have been; Kyokutenho was looking determined and was waiting, however. Advantage: Kyokutenho. Problem is, Kyokutenho is my age, and I get winded going up the stairs. It was a simple one: Gagamaru lurched in and grabbed the belt and had Kyokutenho quickly out yori-kiri. Great tournament for Gagamaru, who looked listless, spent, and confused last time we saw him in Makuuchi in July 2014, but also a pretty good tournament for Kyokutenho; he got his make-koshi here, but he has overcome an awful 0-4 start to get enough wins to probably keep him out of Juryo.

M10 Kyokushuho (6-7) vs. M16 Chiyomaru (8-5)
I'm going to give you two choices; think about them for a moment before you move on to see the result: would you rather: A) stay high enough to get your hands on a guy's neck and push him back if it bothers him or pull him down if it doesn't; B) ignore whatever nastiness your opponent brings up high and focus on getting to his belt so you can yori-kiri him out? Both are legitimate strategies that result in a lot of wins. Answer: if you chose A), you are Chiyomaru, you lost, and you are now 8-6. If you chose B) you are Kyokushuho and you won and are now one step closer to kachi-koshi. Thank you for reading Choose Your Own Adventures; please turn to page 15.

M16 Amuuru (6-7) vs. M10 Kitataiki (8-5)
Nice pop on the tachi-ai, which was won by Lover Man (Amuuru). They whacked each other in the head pretty hard, but Amuuru came out moving forward and with an arm inside. Unfortunately, he tried to turn this into a pull, which simply put Kitataiki underneath him. With Amuuru resting an arm on his shoulder like a tired cowboy at the fencepost, Kitataiki knew what to do and drove his opponent out oshi-dashi. "When Kitataiki hits your guy / like a big chanko pie / that's Amuuuuuuuu-ru!"

M9 Yoshikaze (4-9) vs. M15 Toyohibiki (6-7)
False start from a dejected looking Yoshikaze. He looked like he was thinking, "ah, I should just retire." Yoyo-hibiki must have sensed it; he came in hard with the slaps and thrusts, mostly to the neck (and at one point had his fingers in Yoshikaze's mouth), with Yoshikaze on the defensive. However, Toyohibiki's problem has always been follow through, and as he couldn't finish Yoshikaze off and it went to the belt, I figured Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) was done. Wrong. He used Yoshikaze's inside left grip to twist Yoshikaze down by that arm and drive Yoshikaze's face into the tawara with a wicked kote-nage. Yoshikaze actually bounced off of his face--you can see it in the slow-mo replay. He sported an abraded and bloody forehead on his trip back up the hana-michi.

M13 Ikioi (7-6) vs. M9 Jokoryu (5-8)
Another good, popping-hard tachi-ai here, or maybe the association just has its mics trained right today? Ikioi went backwards with significant separation. Jokoryu followed, but tentatively and without speed--wonder if that knee is bothering him--and Ikioi, who was already standing on the tawara, swiped at Jokoryu when he got close enough, like someone advancing a giant iPad to the next screen. There was no back button for Jokoryu; Ikioi'd used his escape key to survive his tightrope walk on the tawara and was instantly behind Jokoryu for the okuri-dashi push out. Ikioi gets his first ever kachi-koshi in Osaka, his hometown, but didn't look good this basho. He should have dominated at this rank. If Jokoryu can't be repaired he needs to be junked, and Ikioi should install an update and reboot.

M8 Shohozan (0-13) vs. M14 Arawashi (7-6)
Poor Shohozan has been close but no cigar many times this basho. Each bout, he seemed to try harder, his thrusts got more desperate and fast, and still he would be evaded at the edge and lose. It was becoming a comedy show. So, today he went in slow and more deliberate with those up-slaps, and lucky for him Arawashi produced a zero-effort performance; after a lame attempt to reach down and get Shohozan's belt Arawashi let his arms get battered out of the way, and then was battered straight out and back tsuki-dashi. After beating your kid too many times in a row at Uno, sometimes you have to play the wrong cards on purpose.

M13 Sokokurai (8-5) vs. M7 Tokushoryu (7-6)
I was getting all ready to compliment Tokushoryu for proving me wrong; I see him as a technique-free butterball and thought he would get slaughtered at this rank. Instead, he has used his bulk to good effect this tournament and had a chance for kachi-koshi today. But, with my eyes all screwed into critical gimlets looking for things to praise, all I saw what I always see: I don't know what Tokushoryu was doing here, as he just stayed up high and put his hands on Sokokurai and kinda stared at him while Sokokurai worked harder to get under and inside for the win: pretty soon Sokokurai got a hand on the belt, and while Tokushoryu did too, it didn't matter as Sokokurai had already worked him over and out yori-kiri.

M3 Takayasu (2-11) vs. M4 Takekaze (2-11)
Takekaze stood Takayasu up with hands to the neck, then drew back ever so slightly and Takayasu put both hands on the dirt hiki-otoshi. Blech.

M2 Sadanoumi (5-8) vs. M8 Tokitenku (3-10)
You may have winkled out that I am the outlier on Tokitenku: I have a sneaking admiration for his "I don't care what you think of how I win" dirty-but-legal play. He never looks smug or self-satisfied; his face says to me: "shut up ‘n' gimme my money, dammit!" However, he's looked bad and ridiculous this tournament, his bag of tricks actually a threadbare, faded sack with only a few rice husks and dead bugs in it. Here, his arms dangled stiffly in front of him like a naked department store dummy hung from a hook, and Sadanoumi had no problem with a little gaburi and strong pressure from his chest to win this one yori-kiri.

M4 Tochinoshin (6-7) vs. M2 Takarafuji (7-6)
This was a good one. Tochinoshin has looked nothing but solid this tournament, a sharp contrast to past and current sloppy looking foreign bruisers like Kokkai and Osunaarashi. With a back full of rippling muscles (zoinks!) and long, strong arms, there is something intimidating about his sumo right now. He got a right outer, and it was superior to Takarafuji's left outer because of a loose mawashi effect going on. In the end, Takarafuji worked his way into two grips, and I was impressed with how Tochinoshin, even as he was plucking at Takarafuji's arm with his hand to try to get it off his belt, was able to use his grip to throw Takarafuji shitate-nage before it was too late.

M1 Tochiohzan (8-5) vs. M6 Kaisei (5-8)
Tochiohzan is pretty good, and he made this look ridiculously easy, getting his favored moro-zashi, sizing Kaisei up for, oh, about a second, then tipping him over sukui-nage.

K Tamawashi (4-9) vs. M3 Aoiyama (4-9)
The announcers often yell "hiita!" (he pulled!) in an excited way, excited because it means the guy is probably about to be in trouble and lose (they secretly like sumo, too). However, during this match you could hear disappointment in the announcer's voice instead when he said "hiita!" because it turned into a win for Aoiyama. Simple bout where Blue Mountain (Aoiyama) backed up a few steps and then pulled weakly on his opponent, and to our surprise and mild disappointment, that hapless opponent lurched forward and out of the ring hiki-otoshi.

M7 Homarefuji (5-8) vs. M6 Myogiryu (7-6)
Two guys I like in the Komusubi or Sekiwake slots are Tochiohzan and Myogiryu, and we're going to get both in May (as well is Ichinojo and Terunofuji; these are the four best possible guys for these slots, so excellent), as Myogiryu completed defense of his rank with an unspectacular but effective push-and-follow of Homarefuji, who'd hit himself in the face a lot just before the match again so, hey, maybe he was seeing stars. He also was over-amped and false started. When they got going for good, shoves and forward movement from Myogiryu had Sadanoumi near the edge in moments; Sadanoumi evaded there where Myogiryu should have finished him off, but another half turn around the dohyo was enough to get to hataki-komi victory for Myogiryu.

S Terunofuji (11-2) vs. M2 Ichinojo (8-5)
This, of course, much more than Hakuho's bout, was the bout we were all waiting for today.

It turned out to be a long, long one: they had to have a water break after the first three and a half minutes. I wish I could say it was exciting--the crowd did love it--but it was mostly a waiting game. The two put their chests together and had a variety of grips on each other; so many I lost track.

The key to the bout was they keep those chests together and tried to outlast each other; the grips were secondary noise. Their long chest-fusion gave us an amusing view of their dual pendulous bellies heaving up and down when the camera was side-on, like a science documentary x–rays of fish lungs. Ichinojo's face was nestling on Terunofuji's amply plump shoulder; at one point they showed a close up and he looked for all the world like a baby falling asleep on mama. Olympic Ojisan (known to foreign sumo fans as Goldhat, but a minor celebrity in Japan with broad and odd interests; google him under the title I gave him), despite this being an all-Mongolian-talent-fest, gave his fan a few waves to attract attention to himself as he is wont to do. But silliness of this sort was a side dish to the main course of waiting to see who would tire first, which was compelling in its own slow way.

Normally, I would say this favors Ichinojo, who is heavier, and specializes in waiting (weighting!) duels out. Also, the Mountain of Terror looked to be working harder, trying grips and movements, so I thought he would flag first. At one point Fuji the Terrible got The Mongolith's back foot to the tawara, but I think this is Ichinojo's best point as a rikishi: with his bulk and stance, it is very hard to get him over the tawara; it might as well be a waist-high cobblestone wall. Guys slide him over there and he stops like a loaded pallet with all the wheels suddenly broken off. That's why I call him The Iron Blob of Gravity Grease: there is something about him that centers him strongly to the dirt. Terunofuji couldn't get him over either, and it was back to the middle for more waiting.


When the gyoji re-slapped their belts after the pause for the restart, they wriggled hard for a moment, but then it looked like it was going to go back to chest-heave-viewing. Only for a moment though; in a moment Terunofuji was the outlaster, finally driving out Ichinojo yori-kiri and keeping his yusho hopes alive. I think the pause helped him here; he needed a brake to reload more than Ichinojo. This bout lacked flash, but I'd also take it over anything we'd seen thus far except for maybe Tochinoshin/Takara-boom--de-ay.

"O" Goeido vs. Toyonoshima
Horrible acting here; Goeido was his hapless self, already losing, arms in the air above Toyonoshima's head, but my! one of those upper arms bashed Toyonoshima in the face, and Toyonoshima made a huge overstated "I'm screaming in pain!" open mouthed grimace face and fell over backwards oshi-taoshi. Yes, the famous kimari-te "bicep face throw!" So, now we know how this "Ozeki" gets his kachi-koshi. Next!

Y Hakuho (12-1) vs. Kisenosato (8-5)
As we go into this bout, remember, this is the match-up that generated all the between-bashos controversy: in January Hakuho clinched his record breaking 33rd championship in a match against Kisenosato that was ordered into a do-over by a questionable call by the judges, after which Hakuho criticized the judges, resulting of weeks of tut-tutting of him in the press.

I like Kisenosato very much, and am happy to go on record saying I think Sumotalk often underestimates him: for me, he's a real enough Ozeki (in contrast to the other two). I think most of his wins are legitimate and on his good days he is a threat to most of the other top rikishi. That doesn't mean I think he had any chance in this match at all. Yet, Hakuho chose to win this with a quick and easy henka to his right tsuki-otoshi. The henka would normally suggest he felt he might need trickery to win. Not this time. I think Hakuho did this not because that was what he thought was the best way to win--he has no need to henka Kisenosato--but because he's still. really. mad. If it felt disrespectful, it was meant to be so: this was a deliberate, reciprocal message regarding disrespect.

O Kotoshogiku (7-6) vs. Y Harumafuji (10-3)
Oh, god! Do I have to? Sigh. "Saa, musubi no ichiban" ("all right, the top match of the day"), the announcer said in a disengaged voice, as if he were doing his 584th school lunch menu announcements on the overcom. I was right there with him. As for the bout, Harumafuji stuck his arms up into Kotoshogiku's grip and jerked his whole body about violently like a fresh fish on deck, if you're shocking it with a taser. Kotoshogiku ignored this and bodied him directly out yori-kiri. Ridiculous. And now we know how our other fellow gets his kachi-koshi. Next!

Two of these last three bouts today were about clearing the decks for tomhorrow, and that's better than leaving the dirty business for tomorrow. Now, there is no worry about Goeido needing his kachi-koshi, and the hope is that Terunofuji can fight him straight up. We'll see about Harumafuji/Hakuho. If Hakuho wins or Terunofuji loses its Hakuho's 34th championship; only if the opposite happens in both bouts do we get a playoff. Too bad they aren't wrestling each other on the regular schedule tomorrow, but by the end of 2016 we won't have to worry that, as The Greatest (Hakuho) and The Future (Terunofuture) will be facing each other on senshuraku.

That Kelly feller clears your decks tomorrow.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It's so interesting how the face of a basho can change with a single bout, and the 2015 version of the Haru basho certainly needed some kind of spark heading into the weekend. I've been a bit somber the last few days due to the lack of a yusho race, and the NHK broadcast today kicked off on a similar note. Today, they displayed a graphic touching on rikishi who have clinched the yusho on day 13 in consecutive basho, and surprisingly, that's only happened once in the past. Back in 1973, Wajima achieved the feat at the Aki and Kyushu tournaments that year, and with Hakuho on the brink this year, it was appropriate that they ready the audience again for consecutive yusho clinched on day 13.

Mainoumi, who was providing straight up color analysis today instead of commenting from the mukou joumen chair, was asked about the current prospect of Hakuho's pending accomplishment, and while he rightly acknowledged the strength of the Yokozuna, he correctly pointed out that the responsibility for such a feat doesn't lie with the Yokozuna; rather, it's the cast around him who has to fulfill their duties so that a dominant rikishi doesn't take the yusho on Friday. This basho, a rookie Sekiwake has been the only one nipping at the Yokozuna's heels, but you can't expect him to bear the burden alone, and so Harumafuji and the three Ozeki are largely responsible for this condition.

Things would certainly brighten up by the end of the day, but before we get to the bouts, there's one other aspect of the broadcast that I felt NHK was trying to emphasize today, and that is the prospect of some up and coming Japanese rikishi. The largest focus was on a dude named Dewahayate, who clinched the Makushita yusho today from the MS13 rank, and when you do that with a 7-0 mark from within the MS15 ranks, you're guaranteed sekitori status for the next basho. They had a lengthy interview with Dewahayate where it was revealed that the kid really struggled and continued to call home and say how hard things were. His mother repeatedly told him that it would be fine for him to just come home, but when he joined professional sumo, he promised himself that he wouldn't quit until he became a sekitori. He then mentioned that he hopes to now rise to the Makuuchi division so he can invite his mother on day 1 to watch him fight live. As manly as I am, even I well up when I hear that story, and I think it was a sign to the Japanese fans that yes, we still do have some rikishi coming up in the lower ranks, so maintain hope.

On a final note, they were showing the replay of a Sandanme bout where the yusho was decided, and I really wasn't paying attention to the details, but then the guy fighting from the West came out of his stance at the tachi-ai and decked his opponent with a single open fisted punch to the head. And when I say decked, this guy was knocked horizontal to the dohyo and landed flat on his back. I was like, "Whoa, Beavis!" who is this guy? Could this be someone else rising up the ranks to give the Japanese fans hope? As I rewound the tape to watch the whole segment, I realized it was our good buddy Chiyonokuni. I now remember about 18 months ago Chiyonokuni's suffering a hideous knee injury, and the result has been his fall down the banzuke to the Sandanme 28 rank. He's obviously healthy now and just obliterated that division, but the point I want to make with this is the stark difference in the ranks on the banzuke. When you put a legitimate sekitori down in Sandanme, he can knock a guy silly with a single punch. Similarly, if you push a guy too high up the banzuke before he's ready or without his having earned it, he just can't compete with the competition despite everyone's best intentions.

With that background theme presented by NHK in mind, let's turn our attention to the day's bouts, and once again, I will start from the bottom up due to the lack of a legitimate leaderboard and/or yusho race. M15 Toyohibiki tried to keep M14 Arawashi away from the mawashi with tsuppari, but Arawashi wouldn't sit still darting this way and that before finally ducking into moro-zashi with the right arm at the front of the belt. Doesn't matter what the size difference is between these two, the dude with the lower, inside stance will win every time as Arawashi picked up the nice yori-kiri win moving him to 7-6.  At 6-7 now, Toyohibiki must win one of his last two in order to stay in the division.

M16 Chiyomaru led his dance against M13 Ikioi with strong tsuppari into Ikioi's neck and upper torso, and Ikioi could neither counter nor escape sufficiently, so after four seconds or so, Maru connected on a dual shove to Ikioi's neck and then immediately pulled him down to the dirt as he looked to press back forward. This was a good hataki-komi as it was set up with straight sumo as Chiyomaru picks up win number 8 while Ikioi is denied kachi-koshi another day at 7-6.

M12 Chiyootori secured the early left inside position before ducking low to keep M13 Sokokurai from getting to the inside. With both rikishi touching heads and Sokokurai's trying to time a quick pull, it was Chiyootori who finally skipped out left with an immediate pull of his own that sent Sokokurai over to the edge where he was pushed out from behind. Chiyootori puts himself in prime sansho territory moving to 10-3 while Sokokurai meekly proclaimed touché as he fell to 8-5.

M10 Kitataiki forced his bout against M11 Kyokutenho to hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, and with Kitataiki obviously the one pressing forward in this one, Kyokutenho attempted a mild right kote-nage counter throw, but Kitataiki was pressed in too tight with his legs churning not to mention the right outer grip, so he wrapped up this yori-kiri affair in about four seconds clinching kachi-koshi in the process at 8-5. Kyokutenho falls to a dangerous 6-7.

M11 Osunaarashi came with the moro-te-zuki tachi-ai again today, but he wasn't quite sold on it against M10 Kyokushuho, and so the bout turned into a wild slapfest with both guys delivering sideways blows instead of the standard tsuppari. This kind of brawl favors the Ejyptian more than Shuho, and so Osunaarashi was finally able to duck inside for moro-zashi and the overpowering win in the end, but the sumo here was not sound, and I don't like it that Osunaarashi is losing trust of his own tsuppari attack at the tachi-ai. He'll take his 9-4 record regardless while Kyokushuho falls to 6-7.

M8 Tokitenku came with hesitant tsuki at the tachi-ai against M16 Amuuru (tsuki is where the elbows are not bent as opposed to oshi), but Tenku has the shorter arms not to mention his age, so it took Amuuru about two seconds to figure out that he could use the same technique to his advantage, and that's exactly what he did thrusting Tokitenku back and out with ease drawing the tsuki-dashi winning technique in the process. I haven't minded Amuuru this basho as he moves to 6-7 while Tokitenku's trip to Juryo gets closer by the day at 3-10.

In a similar bout between M14 Sadanofuji and M7 Homarefuji, the taller, better rikishi took advantage of his long thrusts from the start as Sadanofuji simply overpowered Homarefuji back and out for the nice oshi-dashi win. Sadanofuji clinches kachi-koshi at 8-5 with the straightforward win while Homarefuji suffers make-koshi at 5-8.

The hottest rank and filer in my opinion is M15 Gagamaru who secured the left inside position against M6 Kaisei and then coupled that with a wicked right nodowa that had Kaisei raised upright and pushed back and out in two seconds. Great stuff from Gagamaru who moves to 10-3 while Kaisei falls to 5-8 with the loss.

M4 Takekaze and M12 Kotoyuki engaged in a straight up tachi-ai with Kotoyuki providing most of the action with his usual tsuppari attack, but he paused with his thrusts just a bit after a few seconds to catch his breath I suppose, and that's when Takekaze pounced yanking Kotoyuki over and out by the right arm. The let up here by Kotoyuki was a bit curious to me as Takekaze ekes his way to 2-11 while Kotoyuki's make-koshi fate is official at 5-8. I don't want to say that Kotoyuki let up in this one on purpose, but dude only lasted three seconds at best...with his initial tsuppari I mean.

M9 Jokoryu opened with a left hari-zashi against M3 Aoiyama at the tachi-ai, but it was a weak effort. Add to that the fact that Aoiyama just charged straight forward out of the gate getting his right arm to the inside in the process, and with Jokoryu hobbled as it is, Aoiyama just bulldozed him back and across the straw without argument. Aoiyama should move forward like this more as he moves to 4-9 while Jokoryu falls to make-koshi death at 5-8.

M9 Yoshikaze easily staved off M3 Takayasu's thrusts slipping to the inside and then behind his opponent buying some precious manlove moments before sending Takayasu out okuri-dashi style in an uneventful event. Yoshikaze improves to 4-9 while Takayasu is not well at 2-11.

M8 Shohozan employed his busy yet ineffective tsuppari yet again pushing M2 Sadanoumi to edge, but Sadanoumi darted left at the last second used a perfect tsuki to Shohozan's right side at the edge sending him to yet another loss. Oh snap! as Shohozan falls to 0-13 while Sadanoumi is a very respectable 5-8.

M7 Tokushoryu kept his arms in tight against M1 Tochiohzan in an effort to keep Oh away from the inside and more importantly, moro-zashi. The move worked for a second or two, but then Tokushoryu went for a quick pull looking to set up a right outer grip on the back of Tochiohzan's belt in order to execute the hiki waza, but he couldn't quite latch onto the belt, and so Oh squared back up with his gal and tsuppari'ed his way into moro-zashi easily pushing Tokushoryu back and across in the end. As my mom would say, I'm tickled to see Tochiohzan pick up kachi-koshi at 8-5 while Tokushoryu falls to 7-6.

M1 Ichinojo looked to get his right arm to the inside from the tachi-ai, but Komusubi Myogiryu latched onto that limb with both arms and moved out left pulling IchinoJoe off balance. As Ichinojo looked to push his way back to the inside, Myogiryu moved left again pulling Joe off balance again this time near the edge and setting up the final shove that pushed the Mongolith across the straw. I was really interested in the reverse angle because it looked to me as if Ichinojo had a clear path to Myogiryu's left outer belt, but they didn't ever show us the reverse angle, and so I can't comment on it definitively. Give Myogiryu the great win as he moves to 7-6 while Ichinojo slumbers at 8-5. Before we move on, I want to emphasize that I think Myogiryu is entirely capable of beating Ichinojo on his own; I just wanted to see the reverse angle in this one to see why Ichinojo didn't grab the left outer.

M2 Takarafuji kept both arms in tight forcing Komusubi Tamawashi to try and tsuppari his way into an opening, but it never materialized and so both rikishi hunkered low into the grappling position where they touched heads and gripped each other's elbows. From this position, what the rikishi are generally looking for is an inashi move, which is a sideways push to the arm (as opposed to a tsuki which is a sideways push to the body), and Takarafuji was able to execute the move first in rather sloppy affair all around. Ta Ka Ra Boom De-ay moves to 7-6, and I am rooting for his kachi-koshi. Komusubi Tamawashi falls to 4-9.

With nothing but Ozeki and Yokozuna left on the docket, the atmosphere in the arena began to pick up, especially with Ozeki Goeido stepping onto the dohyo in preparation for his bout against M4 Tochinoshin. As much as I talk about yaocho in my reports, such bouts are quite hard to predict, and if any of you out there participate in sumo prognosticating games, you know exactly what I mean. Anyway, I did state yesterday that I was quite sure Tochinoshin would just let up today against the Ozeki, and that was obviously the case here. At the tachi-ai, Shin moved slightly to his left keeping his left arm up high around the back of Goeido's head, and so the Ozeki naturally secured the right inside position. Tochinoshin made the migi yotsu bout official by getting his own right arm to the inside as well, but after a few moments, he pulled it out and left it up high gifting Goeido moro-zashi. While I don't necessarily trust Goeido to chew gum and tie his shoelaces at the same time, he knew exactly what to do here driving Tochinoshin back and out while the M4 didn't even think about going for a counter move. Easy peasy Japanesey as Goeido trickles a step ahead at 7-6 while Tochinoshin takes one for team Osaka falling to 6-7 in the process.

Next up was Ozeki Kotoshogiku facing M5 Toyonoshima, and for the record, I do think that the Geeku can beat Tugboat straight up. The two hooked up in the immediate migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Kotoshogiku was unable to secure his gal in tight, and so after about a second in, Toyonoshima executed a maki-kae with the left arm that was hardly noticeable because the Ozeki wasn't defending against it. Now with Toyonoshima in the moro-zashi position, he just bulldozed the Geeku back and out with little resistance. Toyonoshima clinches kachi-koshi with the easy win at 8-5 while the Geeku still needs one more at 7-6.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Harumafuji used a left nodowa against Ozeki Kisenosato, and with the Ozeki simply unable to establish anything at the tachi-ai or apply a defensive tactic, Harumafuji drove him straight back with that single choke hold and put Kisenosato flat on his back across the edge of the dohyo...all in less than two seconds. Furthermore, Harumafuji could have auditioned as the new drummer for Def Leppard because he didn't even use his right arm in this one. Yesterday, when I talked about Harumafuji's playing along with Goeido for most of their bout, I was referring to the Yokozuna's ability to do this exact brand of sumo against the Ozeki when he wants to, and as Kane texted to me, at least we now know the Yokozuna can slam dunk. Regardless, Harumafuji moves to 10-3 while Kisenosato is still stuck at 8-5.

As soon as Yokozuna Hakuho and Sekiwake Terunofuji entered the arena, they were the focus of the broadcast for the last 15 minutes, and you really have two splendid stories with both of these rikishi. In Hakuho, you have the greatest rikishi of all time, and in Terunofuji, you have the perfect model for what an elite rikishi-in-the-making looked like in the good ole days. The balance of the basho also lay in their hands today because a win by Hakuho meant that the tournament is done and the weekend is largely meaningless while an upset from Terunofuji finally puts the wild 'n crazy back into the Areru Haru Basho. And I, for one, did not see this coming.

I love trying to figure out what's on Hakuho's mind, and I speculated just a few days ago that he may be gunning for the one major record he doesn't hold: most consecutive bouts won (69 Futabayama). He hasn't been playing nice with anything that has to do with the Japanese rikishi or the Japanese media, and Harumafuji has held the same attitude the last few basho, and so I simply overlooked the possibility that Hakuho would begin coddling the next legitimate Mongolian.  Asashoryu once proclaimed at a party in Mongolia that he would gift Hakuho a '69 referring to his cooperation in assisting Hakuho's becoming the sport's 69th Yokozuna.  Hakuho in turn showed the same kindness during Harumafuji and Kakuryu's runs, so it makes sense that he's equally willing for a legitimate dude in Terunofuji.

Getting to the actual bout today, Hakuho came with a weak right kachi-age from the tachi-ai while Terunofuji looked to keep him away from the dominant position at the belt with tsuppari. A tsuppari-ai ensued between the two for a few seconds before Hakuho made a move to the inside and found himself in moro-zashi. Instead of pulling his gal in tight at this point, however, he quickly pulled his left arm outta the fray, and at that moment, I knew the Yokozuna's intentions. Having abandoned moro-zashi, the two next settled into migi yotsu with Terunofuji maintaining the stifling left outer grip while Hakuho never bothered exerting any pressure to break off the hold.  After moving this way and that in what appeared to be a classic o-zumo contest, the two paused a bit near the edge where both got fresh with each other's wrists (Terunofuji's right and Hakuho's left), but the Sekiwake was finally able to re-establish his right inside position and make his move. Hakuho had a brief moment near the bales where he instinctively went for the left outer grip and coulda had it, but he pulled back twice before easily allowing himself to be forced back and across by the surging Terunofuji!  Sorry, folks, I now it looked exciting, but this one was as fake as a three dollar bill.

Earlier in the broadcast, they showed a classic bout from 10 years ago where then Komusubi Futenoh (who was in the mukou joumen chair today) defeated Yokozuna Asashoryu on day 1 of the 2005 Aki basho. It was the highlight of Futenoh's career and a fantastic bout. Watching that bout, you could just see the desperation in Asashoryu in that he did not want to lose...to Fruitenoh of all rikishi. The Yokozuna was making headlines because he was 20-0 on day 1 while ranked as a Yokozuna. With his pride on the line, he fought to the very end like a fish hooked in the upper lip, but you can't say the same for Hakuho today. He lazily took that last step back and out failing to counter to either side, and then when you couple that with his abandonment of moro-zashi early and his refusal to grab the left outer grip, there's no question that he let up in this one.  The Sankei Sports newspaper also apparently has the same opinion because as I scanned the headlines, theirs said, "In A Rare Occurrence, Hakuho Lets Up."

When two guys are involved in o-zumo, it almost always ends with both flying off of the dohyo; not a dai-Yokozuna standing straight upright...while he's still inside the ropes as pictured above.  I actually recorded the Asashoryu - Futenoh bout with my cell phone, and I'll link to it here just so you can see what a Yokozuna looks like when he doesn't want to lose. Contrast that video with the replay of the Hakuho - Terunofuji bout and watch for the abandonment of moro-zashi five seconds in and then the other red flags I mentioned.

The arena of course erupted at the upset as this result completely changes the scope of the basho heading into the weekend. For the moment at least, we have a leaderboard once again that shapes up as follows:

12-1: Hakuho
11-2: Terunofuji
10-3: Harumafuji, Chiyootori, Gagamaru

There is no way that Hakuho is going to drop his last two bouts, but it sure sets up a ton of drama that was lacking 10 minutes prior to the contest. Tomorrow, Hakuho draws Kisenosato, and there's no logical reason why he would defer to the Ozeki, and so assuming that Hakuho wins that one, the three-loss rikishi are immediately eliminated at that point. If Terunofuji loses to Ichinojo prior to the Hakuho matchup, the Yokozuna clinches the yusho on day 14 with a win.

Regarding the bout tomorrow between Terunofuji and Ichinojo, Ichinojo is a bad matchup for Terunofuji who relies a lot on his brute strength to overpower his opponents regardless of what position they have obtained from the tachi-ai. With Ichinojo it's different, however, and I favor the Mongolith in that bout. Regardless of what happens, though, the chance that Hakuho still takes the yusho hovers at about 90%. As for his reason to defer to Terunofuji today, I don't think it was ordered by his oyakata, and I don't think it had anything to do with keeping this basho interesting. I thought it had everything to do with his recognition that Terunofuji is truly a rising star, and he wanted to benefit his countryman as mentioned previously.

One final note regarding the day 14 docket, Ozeki Goeido draws the feisty Toyonoshima. I think if Goeido can deny Toyonoshima moro-zashi, he can beat him straight up. Overall, I think that Toyonoshima is the superior rikishi, but let's see what happens. I really want Goeido to win tomorrow because you don't want to have to go into senshuraku with his facing Terunofuji and a 7-7 record. I think a Goeido win over Terunofuji on senshuraku would be a perfect way to cap the basho and help everyone in Osaka feel warm and fuzzy. You just don't want that to happen with kachi-koshi on the line because then it becomes painfully obvious. Then again, Terunofuji could opt to put a stamp on this basho regardless of the Ozeki's record.  It's why we watch the bouts innit?

That's it for me as far as daily comments. I will next chime in with a post-basho report, and I know that many of my opinions have been controversial, but see in sumo what you want to see. There's something there for everyone.

Harvye pinch hits for me tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The Haru basho is running on fumes, and even I'm struggling to find interesting angles to lead with. I guess the biggest story from day 12 was that Derek Jeter was in the house. Invited as a special guest of the Sumo Association, Jeter was able to meet some of the rikishi including Hakuho, and then he was also given a prime seat next to the East hana-michi. It guaranteed that each time a dude from the East won that you'd see Jeter in the broadcast as they followed the rikishi back up the hana-michi. Jeter was also accompanied by Hannah Davis, his smoking hot girlfriend, and during the middle section of the broadcast when you're just trying to get through it all to the sanyaku and above, they kept panning in on Jeter and the gal. Normally when a celebrity like Jeter is there, they're the focus in the center of the screen, but every shot showed Jeter to the right of the screen and Ms. Davis to the left. Smart move by the producers in the truck because I only needed to see Jeter once.

Since we're just fooling ourselves with talk of a leaderboard or a yusho race, I'm going to go "Week 1" on you and just comment on the day's bouts starting from the bottom up. After his crushing defeat of Osunaarashi yesterday, M15 Gagamaru used the same formula today, which was a straight forward tachi-ai where he takes advantage of his size. Against M13 Ikioi, the two looked to hook up in migi yotsu, but Ikioi sensed the freight train coming, and so he backed up slightly to his right looking for a pull, but Gagamaru was in too close and caught him with a left paw to the chest that sent Ikioi across the bales a few seconds in. Gagamaru cruises to 9-3 with the win while Ikioi falls to 7-5...a record that includes a bit of charity as it is.

M12 Chiyootori henka'd to his left away from M11 Osunaarashi's tsuppari at the tachi-ai leaving the Ejyptian in an awkward position from the start although he somehow managed to square back up in migi yotsu. During the melee, Osunaarashi latched onto the left outer grip, but Chiyootori was just tucked too deep to the inside, and he was able to use his body perfectly to fell Osunaarashi with a right inside grip. The last three seconds looked great, but it was all set up with a henka. Dirty pool from Chiyootori who moves to 9-3 while Osunaarashi is stuck on 8-4.

M13 Sokokurai shaded right just enough at the tachi-ai in a move called uwate-wo-toru grabbing the early right outer grip against M11 Kyokutenho. Tenho's mistake after the cheap tachi-ai was giving Sokokurai the easy inside position to the left because once it was established, Sokokurai mounted his force-out charge, and there was nothing Kyokutenho could do about it. Sokokurai clinches kachi-koshi at 8-4 while Kyokutenho falls to 6-6. Already too much henka for my taste, and we're just three bouts in.

M10 Kyokushuho offered a right kachi-age at the tachi-ai against M15 Toyohibiki and then quickly backed outta the move going for the immediate hataki-komi. It's a bit dangerous, but it worked wonders today as Toyohibiki wasn't really watching his opponent after being greeted with the right forearm chivvy. Both rikishi end the day at 6-6.

M14 Sadanofuji and M10 Kitataiki finally treated us to sumo where both parties were intent on moving forward. Sadanofuji dictated the pace early with beefy tsuppari into Kitataiki's craw, but Kitataiki dug in well despite being pushed back a few steps, and he was finally able to grab the front of Sadanofuji's belt with the right, and once he had that, he snuggled in close and setup the methodic force-out charge from there. Both combatants end the day at 7-5.

M9 Yoshikaze shaded left at the tachi-ai looking to throw M14 Arawashi a curveball, but it was too slow today allowing Arawashi to quickly square back up, get his right arm to the inside, and then bulldoze his retreating opponent back and across for good with a nice shove to the torso. Arawashi is even steven again at 6-6 while Yoshikaze falls to 3-9. With that kind of tachi-ai, it's no surprise Monster Drink has lost his fizz, and if he's not careful, the Juryo undertaker is going to start sizing him up for his next mawashi.

M8 Shohozan's tsuppari were desperate yet again today against M16 Amuuru, and they really had no effect as Amuuru waited a second after the tachi-ai and then just timed a pull of Shohozan's extended arms. It wasn't pretty sumo as Shohozan all but walked himself out at the end giving up early, but this is Amuuru's style...hold back at the tachi-ai, stay low, and wait for an opportunity to pounce. Shohozan is getting that "feel sorry for me" look now as he walks down the tachi-ai reminiscent of Hokutoriki. When I see that, I root for the guy to lose even more. The last thing we need in sumo is more rikishi deferring more bouts. In the end, Amuuru improves to 5-7 while Shohozan is 0-12.

M16 Chiyomaru greeted M8 Tokitenku with two hands to the throat and then shook Tenku silly as if he had a blow-up doll around the neck. After a few moments of abuse, Chiyomaru just yanked Tokitenku forward and down for the forceful hiki-otoshi win. Chiyomaru improves to 7-5 while Tokitenku is a paltry 3-9.

M12 Kotoyuki blazed forward yet again leading with his tsuppari against M7 Homarefuji whose reaction was to attempt a brief pull, but all that did was give Kotoyuki more momentum, and as he continued to churn the de-ashi forward, Homarefuji simply ran out of real estate and was pushed back and out before he could escape. For all the guff that I've given Kotoyuki this basho over his barking habit, the dude does know the importance of de-ashi. Both fellas end the day at 5-7.

Perhaps M4 Takekaze sensed blood today against the hobbling M9 Jokoryu because he just charged straight into Jokoryu instigating the migi yotsu affair. Bad move because injured or not, Jokoryu was easily able to grab the left outer grip, pull his gal in tight, and then show Takekaze what real sumo is escorting him back across the straw without argument. Unlike this basho, Jokoryu's still got a bitta life in him at 5-7 while Takekaze falls to 1-11.

M2 Takarafuji looked to get the left arm to the inside today but was rebuffed in short order by M3 Aoiyama's tsuppari. Aoiyama, who owns this match-up head to head, failed to couple any de-ashi with the shoves, and so Takarafuji was able to escape to his left and force Aoiyama to give chase. As Aoiyama looked to square back up and deal that lethal blow, Takarafuji moved just enough around the edge of ring setting up a surprise pull at the edge. Takarafuji nearly stepped out setting it up, but the move worked to perfection as Aoiyama was yanked over to the edge to where he was leaning forward over the straw. The slight tap to his torso was academic as Takarafuji scored the okuri-dashi win evening his record at 6-6 while Aoiyama falls to 3-9.

M3 Takayasu offered as weak of a moro-te as you'd care to see against M1 Tochiohzan, and so Oh just ducked in hard and had Takayasu pushed upright and back in three uneventful seconds. Tochiohzan is one win away from pay dirt at 7-5 while Takayasu's struggles continue at 2-10.

M1 Ichinojo exhibited an interesting tachi-ai where his left arm was sorta reaching over the top of M7 Tokushoryu looking for who knows what, but he made sure to keep his right arm down and to the inside guaranteeing the inside position. Tokushoryu complied forcing the bout to migi-yotsu, and so both rikishi dug in with their chests far away from the crucial outer grip. Well, the outer grip was crucial in Tokushoryu's case, but Ichinojo didn't need it as he waited for the first shift in Tokushoryu's momentum before mounting a powerful yori charge leading with that right hand to the inside. This one was over in short order as Ichinojo captures kachi-koshi at 8-4 while Tokushoryu falls to 7-5. I wouldn't recommend that tachi-ai against most rikishi, but against Tokushoryu the Mongolith got away with it.

M2 Sadanoumi was in his crouch early and rearing to go against Komusubi Tamawashi, and can you really blame him? After getting the kitchen sink thrown his way the first 11 days not to mention a few favors for the Ozeki, Sadanoumi finally found himself in a matchup where he was the favorite. He largely ignored Tamawashi's tsuppari and kept his chin low warding off four or five decent blows from the Komusubi, and once it was evident Tamawashi had shown his best, Sadanoumi just pressed his way to the inside and set up the easy push-out win. Both rikishi end the day at 4-8.

At this point in the broadcast, Terunofuji entered the building, and so they went down to the man on the hana-michi and reported that Terunofuji has been suffering from abdominal pains the last few days. It was funny because they were beating around the bush and talking about everything except the simple fact that Terunofuji had the runs yesterday. Give Terunofuji credit, though, because the reporter said when he asked the youngster if the "stomach pains" were the reason he lost to Kaisei yesterday, he quickly replied, "That's no excuse." Damn straight. Had he taken a dump before he entered the arena, the Sekiwake would still be sitting at just one loss...a loss he gave up to Kisenosato no less! How ironic is it that we're a missed bowel movement and a yaocho away from having two undefeated rikishi heading into the weekend?

Before I get too carried away...Komusubi Myogiryu slammed into M6 Kaisei knocking him upright just enough before digging deep for the inside belt grips. Pressing into Kaisei with his body, he secured the right to the inside first and the left frontal next completely pinching Kaisei out of an offensive maneuver. After biding his time for a few moments, Myogiryu went for a dashi-nage dragging the Brasilian over to the edge but not quite out allowing Kaisei a final counter kote-nage throw with the right arm, but Myogiryu's position was just too good, and he was able to force Kaisei back beyond the straw thanks to what he set up in the beginning. Myogiryu's kachi-koshi hopes are bright at 6-6 while Kaisei falls to 5-7.

Sekiwake Terunofuji went for a wild hari-te with the right hand at the tachi-ai against M5 Toyonoshima giving Tugboat the easy moro-zashi, but all Terunofuji cares about is his ability to keep his gal in snug, and he more than did that by wrapping both arms around the outside of Toyonoshima's limbs pulling him in close like an anaconda ready to suffocate his prey. Toyonoshima could do nothing as Terunofuji drove him back to the edge and then wrenched him over and down with a dual arm kote-nage of Toyonoshima's right arm. Damnation, you can just see Terunofuji transform into an Ozeki-like figure before your very eyes as he moves to 10-2 setting up his bout with Hakuho tomorrow. Toyonoshima is 7-5 and still has a great chance to return to the sanyaku for May.

Both Ozeki Kisenosato and M4 Tochinoshin took a small step to their left at the tachi-ai resulting in a migi yotsu contest without a real crash at the start. Kisenosato kept his his can far away from Tochinoshin's left hand and then nuzzled in for a right outer belt grip of his own, but as he pivoted out in an effort to set up the right belt throw, Tochinoshin just wouldn't budge. Shin used his left leg nicely to nudge the Ozeki off balance just enough to where he set up the left inside belt counter throw that sent Kisenosato over to the edge of the dohyo and fully upright before Tochinoshin just body slammed him to the dirt yori-taoshi style for the dominant win. Tochinoshin moves to 6-6, and he's a dude I'd really like to see in the Komusubi slot come May. As for Kisenosato, he falls to 8-4, and I'm sorry but an Ozeki has got to win a bout against an M4 when the Ozeki has the outer grip. Ending up flat on your back at the edge of the ring is a sign of something.

Yokozuna Hakuho came with his usual right kachi-age at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, but the Ozeki threw a bit of a curveball by keeping his left arm low and right at the front of Hakuho's belt. With the right inside position denied, Hakuho pulled out of his yotsu stance and delivered a left straight arm into the Ozeki's neck and then a right paw to the face that knocked the Geeku straight upright at the edge of the dohyo. Kotoshogiku was done at this point, but the Yokozuna seized moro-zashi and bodied Kotoshogiku down into the first row for good measure. No surprises here as Hakuho seems like a dude on a mission at 12-0 while Kotoshogiku still needs that last dirty win at 7-5.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji and Ozeki Goeido hooked up in the migi yotsu position, but before they could really get settled into gappuri, Goeido executed a roundhouse swipe from the side with the left hand sending the Yokozuna over to the straw although I didn't see any contact made, but Harumafuji was able to square back up, and now the gappuri migi yotsu contest was on for real. Smelling blood, Goeido mounted a quick force-out charge that sent Harumafuji back near the edge, but there was no real advantage that would help put Goeido over the top, and so HowDo forced the action back to the center of the ring. As the two dug back in, Goeido mounted yet another force out charge this time using his gut to lift Harumafuji off of his feet a bit, but once again, he couldn't get him past the straw. With the second charge having been much better than the first, I think Harumafuji got serious about things, and before Goeido could mount his third charge, Harumafuji ended the funny bidness by executing a mammoth right inside belt throw that put the Ozeki flat on his back with the Yokozuna mounting him for good measure.

Despite the loss, this was a good showing for Goeido in the eyes of the fans. Yeah, he lost, but he came oh so close!! Some may be wondering 'why doesn't Goeido fight like this all the time?' and the simple answer is that he's not capable at this level of the banzuke or he'd be doing it on a daily basis as would the other Ozeki. Goeido has had two straightup belt contests this basho: Ichinojo and Harumafuji. Am I the only one that sees the coincidence here? If Goeido was really capable of taking a Yokozuna to the brink, why couldn't he do it against Tamawashi? Sadanoumi did today, and that dude only has four wins. And that feller Takekaze and his 1-11 record? Who was that one win against? Simply put, an Ozeki does not lose to an M4 rikishi who goes 1-11 through the first 12 days, and that day 6 bout of theirs wasn't even close.  As for Goeido's effort against Harumafuji, it was admirable, but the ease with which the Yokozuna spun him onto his back--with an inside belt grip no less--tells me that Harumafuji coulda pounced any time he wanted to in this one.

When I look at Goeido's line this basho, I think everyone of his six wins was handed to him, so does that mean he's not capable of winning in the division? Of course not. As I stated a few days ago, I think that if all sumo bouts were fought straight up, the three Ozeki would be somewhere around the M6 range. The jo'i of the division is a completely different story, however, so in my pre-basho reports when I say that the Ozeki are probably good for three or four wins on their own, I'm being way too nice on purpose because I know how uncomfortable the majority of the readers get when I point out reality. Goeido puts the NSK in a tough spot yet again because at 6-6 with three days to go, how is he going to find those last two wins? I'm almost positive Tochinoshin will bow to him tomorrow, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him get win #8 over Terunofuji on the weekend.

That's jumping the gun a bit, however, so let's wrap up the day tomorrow with a review of the yusho race. With Hakuho at 12-0 and Terunofuji at 10-2, Hakuho can clinch yusho #34 on Friday with a win. I think if those two fought 20 times now, Terunofuji would maybe beat Hakuho once, but in 18 months or so, Terunofuji will narrow the gap to about one in four. For the time being, expect the yusho on day 13, and then it will be the usual game of serious jockeying down the stretch to get everyone their kachi-koshi.

See ya tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Since it's been 20 years or so before I last even attempted goat herder speak, I really have no idea what transpired on day 10, but I did see the headline last night confirming a sell-out for every day of the 2015 Haru basho. Who can forget just a few years ago on the weekdays when you'd have the suna-kaburi (first four rows of cushions immediately surrounding the dohyo) mostly full and then about the first four rows of masu-seki full? And that was it! Elevating multiple Japanese rikishi to the Ozeki rank and then creating this superhero status for Endoh has brought the fans back in droves, but as I've questioned before, how long will they be able to sustain this momentum when the sumo atop the dohyo doesn't match the hype in the media?

I'll let the Sumo Association worry about that aspect, so let's turn our focus to the day 11 bouts by first reviewing the leaderboard as it stood prior to the day 11 Makuuchi bouts:

10-0: Hakuho
9-1: Terunofuji
8-2: Aminishiki, Osunaarashi, Chiyootori

That mother is hanging by a thread with a sanyaku newbie holding onto second place and three shaky rank-and-filers filling out the third tier. To make matters worse, Aminishiki is already done, withdrawing from the tournament last night after injuring his leg by tripping over the goat herder's walking staff...or at least I think that's the way it was described yesterday. Regardless, there is very little to market with that leaderboard, so thank the sumo gods the last five days are already sold out.

Let's start with the leaderboard working our way from the two-loss rikishi up. As mentioned, M6 Aminishiki is done this tournament due to injury giving M1 Tochiohzan a freebie and moving him into kachi-koshi territory at 6-5. With guys like Okinoumi and Tamawashi in the sanyaku, we can't get Tochiohzan back there soon enough, so I'm rooting hard for his kachi-koshi. As for Aminishiki, his official record at the end of the tournament will be 8-7, and while he's got that majority of wins, the dude who engraves the names on the sansho trophies is already cursing for having wasted his time relearning the A-MI-NISHIKI kanji characters again in vain.

Let's next move to one of the hottest rikishi in the division, M11 Osunaarashi, who needed to halt the surging M15 Gagamaru in order to hold onto his leader status. This was easily the biggest matchup of the first half , and it would be interesting to see if Osunaarashi would stick to his tsuppari-to-the-neck charge against a behemoth like Gagamaru. He sorta did offering a few lame thrusts Yubabamaru's way, but Gagamaru was committed to charging straight forward, and after he easily got the left to the inside, he just bulldozed the Ejyptian back and out leading with that left hand. This one was so lopsided, Osunaarashi couldn't even set up a counter kote-nage near the edge in this three-second bout. Yeah, I guess Osunaarashi attempted those tsuppari at the tachi-ai, but they were half-assed from the get-go, and it showed as Gagamaru scored the big win leaving both of these numbskulls at 8-3 and more importantly knocking Osunaarashi off of the leaderboard.

M12 Chiyootori and M10 Kitataiki never could get synced up at the tachi-ai, and when they finally did go, Chiyootori was late and couldn't sufficiently establish his left to the inside to his detriment. Kitataiki did move forward well forcing the bout to migi-yotsu where Kitataiki had the left outer grip, and he used the position to swing Chiyootori around, out, and off the leaderboard just like that. Chiyootori never looked like a contender from the start, but he just couldn't get it right at the tachi-ai and was bullied out by Kitataiki as a result. I guess he's still happy to have kachi-koshi at 8-3, but just like that, the final two-loss rikishi from the leaderboard was wiped out like a fart in the wind. Kitataiki moves to 6-5 with the victory.

Let's next travel back up the ranks to our one-loss rikishi, Sekiwake Terunofuji, who needed to solve M6 Kaisei to stay one off the pace. The two hooked up into the immediate migi yotsu contest from the tachi-ai, but it was Kaisei who demanded the left outer grip, and he was pressed in so tightly that Terunofuji's hopes of a left outer on the other side were as a dream in the night. Terunofuji usually doesn't mind a predicament like this, but Kaisei was an army with banners today working his feet perfectly and forcing Terunofuji back and across without argument. Wow, you rarely see Terunofuji done in like this, but Kaisei just had his number today as the Brasilian moves to 5-6. The loss does keep Terunofuji on the leaderboard at 9-2, but it did drop him two back of Hakuho, and after the bout, I've never heard Kitanofuji so irritated by a loss.

First, the leaderboard was shaky to begin with, and second, Terunofuji would have normally fought Hakuho tomorrow, but they rearranged the day 12 schedule pairing Hakuho up with Kotoshogiku instead in hopes that Terunofuji would continue his winning ways and set up a more meaningful bout with the Yokozuna over the weekend. Oops. You can't blame Terunofuji, though. The kid is still just that...a kid. The blame needs to be put on Harumafuji and the three Ozeki for failing to keep up with a leaderboard that was lousy from the beginning. NHK meekly displayed the new leaderboard after Terunofuji's loss, and it looked like this:

0 losses: Hakuho
2 losses: Terunofuji

Of course, we still had Yokozuna Hakuho's bout to go, and against Ozeki Goeido today, I suppose anything could happen, but my yaocho meter was hardly ticking as we approached the bout because Hakuho has had the redass of late due to the constant badgering he's been receiving from the press in regards to his statements in January that hinted of racial bias among the judges. As the action began, Hakuho stood upright at the tachi-ai and shaded right putting both hands near the back of Goeido's head threatening a pull. It was a strange tachi-ai, indeed, but Goeido had no idea how to respond, and so he skipped out right looking for some kind of opening with the Yokozuna standing there with the welcome matt in full view and the grizzly bear swipes waiting. Clueless, Goeido attempted to duck his way back into the heart of the Yokozuna, but Hakuho grabbed the left outer belt and just dragged Goeido to the dirt easy as you please.

It was a somber ending to the day that did have its loud moments thanks to this huge cheering section of school girls in the nosebleeds complete with their yellow pompoms.  The gals came from a local private school where the rikishi often pay courtesy visits when they're in Osaka, and so as a show of thanks, they sent 100 students with yellow pom poms to the venue where the girls formed various expressions with their yellow pompoms like "Mezase V" (go for the victory) or the ever creative "W-I-N" (WIN for you readers who think all bouts are fought straight up).  Anyway, as the day 11 dust settled, the leaderboard was as follows:

11-0: Hakuho
9-2: Terunofuji


With the win, Hakuho stays perfect at 11-0 while Goeido falls to a precarious 6-5, and the talk that's making the rounds now is Hakuho's current win streak that stands at 35 straight. Earlier on in the basho, NHK noted the rikishi who were able to put 30 wins together in a row, and of course Hakuho was on that list having achieved the feat again on day 6, but his choosing to defeat Goeido today signals that he's not really in a giving mood of late. Let's assume he runs the table again this basho; that would leave him at 39 straight wins. The all-time record is 69 (sweet!), so it would only take two more zensho yusho for Hakuho to reach set the new record at 70. Come day 1 of the Aki basho, will we be witnessing history as Hakuho rewrites that final record in the book he doesn't hold?

I'd say the chances he can reach 70 wins is about 60%. Whether or not he tries for that number is another story, and I won't even begin to speculate as to what's going through the Yokozuna's mind at this point. When sumo found itself in it's darkest depths, Hakuho was in the midst of his run to 63 albeit the sport was coming off of some major scandals at the time. We don't have the scandals this time around, and sumo is as popular as it's been in 17 years, so the real drama in the sport right now is not "Who can challenge for the yusho?" It's, "What's going on in Hakuho's head?" In the short-term, the NSK is going to have to figure out how to maintain momentum as they conclude the Haru basho because after today's events, I don't know what there is to look forward to the final four days...other than our daily reports of course.

In other bouts of interest on the day, Yokozuna Harumafuji and Komusubi Myogiryu bumped heads at the tachi-ai trading alternate shoves and pull attempts in a wild affair the first three or four seconds. The dust finally settled with the two in hidari-yotsu where Harumafuji made sure to keep his gal in tight, and once it was clear that Myogiryu was secure, Harumafuji bullied his way forward and forced Myogiryu back and out with ease in the end. Harumafuji was bleeding slightly from his forehead thanks to the great tachi-ai, but it's no harm no foul as he moves to 8-3 while Myogiryu falls beneath .500 at 5-6.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku received a bit of love from the cheering section today.  Prior to his bout, the girls formed the expression "Kiku-chan" with their pompoms referring to a pet name that plays off the Geeku's real last name of Kikuchi.  And the Ozeki would not disappoint (or should it be his opponent wouldn't disappoint?) getting his right arm to the inside and the left outer grip near the front of M4 Tochinoshin's belt at the tachi-ai, and as he began driving Shin back, Tochinoshin kept his right arm in no man's land and didn't even attempt a counter move just staying square and upright as the Ozeki drove him back and out with zero resistance. Kotoshogiku breathes a bit easier now at 7-4 with the girls gone wild while Tochinoshin gets fat on the Ozeki's dime tonight at 5-6.

Ozeki Kisenosato was wide open at the tachi-ai as usual giving up moro-zashi way too easily to M5 Toyonoshima, but Toyonoshima just stood there with the advantageous position like a bump on a log failing to even try and advance forward a single step. It was obvious at this point that Toyonoshima was not trying to win, and he let Kisenosato settle into an outside grip first and then the full on kime position next where he wrenched Toyonoshima over to the edge and tried to body him straight back. Toyonoshima dug his gut into the Ozeki staying alive, and after a few more swings this way and that and another yori attempt at the edge where Toyonoshima survived, Kisenosato finally dispatched him with a left kote-nage throw to the delight of the Osaka faithful who were worked into a frenzy at this point led by the programmed gals. Kisenosato clinches kachi-koshi at 8-3 with the win, and I didn't see any attempt on Toyonoshima's part to try and take advantage of moro-zashi or counter by slipping to the side near the edge as he did against Harumafuji. He coulda done it had he wanted to try, but he's content with his 7-4.

M3 Takayasu--the last rikishi to "defeat" Hakuho--sort of got his left arm inside at the tachi-ai, but Komusubi Tamawashi was so busy as he kept his hips far back and hands moving on the other side that he was eventually able to force the bout to a push affair. Takayasu still longed for that left inside position, but Tamawashi just nudged him back closer and closer until he was able to catch him in sort of a kote-nage with the right arm and shove Takayasu back from there. Tamawashi's had a decent basho at 4-7 while Takayasu hasn't at 2-9.

M1 Ichinojo put two hands at M2 Takarafuji's neck at the tachi-ai and threatened a quick pull, and while it didn't work, it knocked Takarafuji off of his game, so as Ta Ka Ra Boom De-ay looked to duck in and force the bout to the belt, Ichinojo offered another pull sending Takarafuji into a swan dive to the dirt with a shoulder slap. I think it was a sign of respect from Ichinojo here in terms of not wanting to get into a belt tussle with Takarafuji who falls to 5-6. As for Ichinojo, he moves to 7-4, and he's likely the guy that needs to receive the brunt of positive attention from the Japanese media again in order to maintain fan interest.

M2 Sadanoumi held up at the tachi-ai against M4 Takekaze, which was probably a wise move as Takekaze did move forward but looked extremely lost at the prospect of a straight-up bout. He quickly switched gears and went for a few pulls allowing Sadanoumi to finally advance getting his right arm to the inside and easily dispatching Takekaze back and across the bales. Sadanoumi picks up the rare win moving to 3-8 while Takekaze falls to 1-10.

M8 Tokitenku may have been looking for a keta-guri against M4 Aoyama, but Aoiyama must have sensed something was up because he charged as hard as I've ever seen catching Tokitenku with a paw to the chest and just plowing him back and out before Tokitenku could execute his girly trick from the tachi-ai. Love to see Tokitenku get his ass handed to him like this as both rikishi end the day at 3-8.

M13 Ikioi used a half henka moving to his right against M7 Homarefuji offering one of those quick kote-nage / tsuki-otoshi combinations that felled Homarefuji down a second in. This was more the work of the henka than anything, and the crowd was overjoyed with the result despite the unsavory sumo. Ikioi has worked his way back to 7-4 while Homarefuji falls to 5-6.

M12 Kotoyuki henka'd to his right against M7 Tokushoryu, but the move didn't work as Tokushoryu easily recovered. With his de-ashi gone, Kotoyuki looked to tsuppari his way back into the bout, but Tokushoryu moved to the side once throwing Kotoyuki off balance and then once more as Bob Barker looked to recover. Tokushoryu's second tsuki-otoshi attempt got him in the end, and it was ugly sumo all the way around here as Tokushoryu advances to 7-4 while Kotoyuki falls to 4-7.

M8 Shohozan used his usual tsuppari at the tachi-ai against M14 Sadanofuji before flirting with the front of the Sadamight's belt, but Sadanofuji countered with tsuppari of his own and was able to force the bout to hidari-yotsu. Shohozan had an outer grip, but it was only one fold of the belt and so Sadanofuji let him expend his energy with a few belt throws before making his charge leading with the left inside. At the edge, Shohozan just crumpled from exhaustion as he falls to a dubious 0-11 record. Sadanofuji on the other hand moves to 7-4 and is sitting pretty for a return to the dance in May.

M13 Sokokurai moved out left at the tachi-ai going for the cheap outer grip against M9 Yoshikaze, and while it was denied, the curveball allowed Sokokurai to snuggle in tight with the left inside position and right outer grip after a few desperate pulls from Cafe. Yoshikaze's discomfort at the belt showed here as Sokokurai completely dominated the contest at this point swinging Yoshikaze over and out leading with that right outer grip. Sokokurai moves to 7-4 while Yoshikaze's make-koshi is official at 3-8.

M16 Chiyomaru caught M9 Jokoryu well at the tachi-ai with two hands to the neck, but he quickly wasted that start by going for a rapid pull, and it not only let Jokoryu back into the bout, but he was able to survive the move and come outta the fray with the right inside and left outer. Chiyomaru complied with the same arm positions making this gappuri migi yotsu contest, and while the better belt fighter here is Jokoryu, he couldn't budge Chiyomaru. Chiyomaru waited patiently for Jokoryu's first yori-kiri attempt, and after rebuffing that with ease, Maru made his move and easily forced Jokoryu back and out. Jokoryu was limping badly on his right leg heading out of the venue, but it seems that he's been dinged up for three basho now. His inability to best Maru here at the belt is a sure sign of injury as Jokoryu falls to 4-7. Chiyomaru breathes easier at 6-5.

M10 Kyokushuho and M14 Arawashi hooked up in migi-yotsu with Shuho maintaining the left outer grip, and he wasted no time bodying Arawashi back. In the process, Arawashi attempted a few maki-kae with the left arm, but Kyokushuho was on a roll and a mission scoring the linear force-out win leaving both dudes at 5-6.

M11 Kyokutenho sorta charged forward at the tachi-ai against M15 Toyohibiki getting the left arm to the inside shallow as it was, but Tenho played his hand shortly thereafter going into pull mode dragging Toyohibiki over and down with his right hand at the back of Toyohibiki's neck. Toyohibiki just walked into this one and should seriously consider...I don't know...firing away with least one shove? Both fellas end the day at 6-5.

And finally, J1 Chiyotairyu came out with the tsuppari blazing against M16 Amuuru, but his de-ashi and commitment to the offensive were mediocre, and as Amuuru persisted, Chiyotairyu finally went for the pull. The Russian was ready and pounced into moro-zashi, and while it was light allowing Chiyotairyu a mammoth counter kote-nage at the edge with the left arm, Chiyotairyu sloppily stepped out before Amuuru hit the ground giving Amuuru the win and a 4-7 record. The last time we saw Chiyotairyu, he was 0-4 in Juryo of all places. He's turned that around a bit of late, but the loss today pushes him to 4-7. Chiyotairyu is one of the strongest and beefiest JPN rikishi on the entire banzuke, so it's a shame that he's such a head case.

Speaking of head cases, you get me again tomorrow...same time same place.

Day 10 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Them be go kill ech uther up thar on et clay, lakh goat. Why say I cuz goats I like em, they's eat anything they lahk and em has horns ken kill ech uther. Ceptin' theysn't doin' it much, killin, nor fight. Eat yer pants offn the line, yes do that sum, but exual killin no.

Jes lakh them resslers don do no real killin tho I'ze thinkn theys mite like to sumtimes kill ech uther when gets mad. Thems fat, too, ferst time I sees em jest I'ze thinkin "them's fat." Them's so fat. Real fat like fat fat. Thems got hanks o fat hangen offn theirs arms lakh big fat drippin fryer steaks, lahk ded meat onm bone when I'ze tarnin goat fleisch on tha spit. Disgesting drippin fat hanks hangn onm. That's what I'ze thinkin ferst time--mine eyes is seen only fat, so fat. Fat lakh fat. But thens I'm watchin em, en I'ze watchin em gud, en I'ze thinkin no, nots so bad, thems fat, thems fat lakh rabbit fed too much pellet, but ems strong too, gud en strong en ver vilent t' ech uther. Ver vilent hittin en smakin ech uther lakh goats get fightin over shes.

So I'ze writening thes here repirt lakh I knows sumthin but I dunno much. No thing I knows jes wetchin em with Harvye sumtimes. So I'm tellin yous bout this fore I goes gets them goats's en melk em fer drinkin. I'ze shud be tellin u, thet Harvye dronked too much em hems lying in the beckyerd ware I lives but hem lef hizn cornputer opn so's I'ze ritin this here now fer him lakh I thenk he'd want.

J1 Kagamioh (3-6) vs. M16 Chiyomaru (4-5)
Thet one Kagamio he jumpped forrard but hem uther one Chiyomaru grabbbed Kagamio by the hed en pullled hem by that there hed en Kagamio fell forrard lakh, ceptin also as he fell Chiyomaru gived hem one leetle slap on the arse lakh t say, "geet on out there, now, leetle doggie!" Thet's called hikiotoshi.

M13 Ikioi (5-4) vs. M14 Arawashi (5-4)
A'most same; Arawashi look lakh headbutt uther feller inna stomak, but uther feller Ikioi jes slaps im in side a da hed en hem Arawashi run all way outter ring lakh "whoooee!" En called kotenage, but is dit rasslin or slapppin?

M12 Chiyootori (7-2) vs. M15 Gagamaru (7-2)
Well, nuh, here's sum rasslin. These be both big fat ones, round lakh scoops of geese fat fer Krismas. Welln, both them fellers done stuck theres arms on thet leetle belt they ware, em Gagamaru lookid biggern I thinked "hems gonna winnit now," but Chiyootori spun Gagamaru raht ovur t the straw en throwed em down with his lef han inside, called shitatenage, look lakh droppin sumthen by mistake cuz youze tired kerrying et, but et worked.

M13 Sokokurai (5-4) vs. M12 Kotoyuki (4-5)
Well, I notice wen I wach this with Harvye it don matter how much you pushm in the face, ifn he turns tuther cheek lakh, meanin he sticks and bucks and say "go 'head, dum dum, I kin tek it," u ken pushim inna face all u lakhs, ifn he don fall down u don win. En that big dum round one Kotoyuki jus pushin en pushin Sokokurai round the ring in tha face, en hem Sokokurai ain't fallin down, en finaly Sokokurai sez "thet's enuf!" en grabben that fat thing by the arm en pulld em out, kalled tottari. Don' look gud neether ofnm, but thet one Sokukurai been tuffer tiday.

M15 Toyohibiki (5-4) vs. M10 Kitataiki (5-4)
Thems slappped bodies tigether lakh slapppin a udder fore milkin it, gud sound thet is now, en Toyohibiki is big en fat an too much hevy fat fer Kitataiki en plus Kitataiki's arm was stikkin strate upin d air en his leg kikkin lakh a dyin chikin en so wud be yoursn ifn Toyohibiki run into u too lakh thet, lakh, "hey u fat theng, get offn me!" but dint work Toyohibiki dint git ofn hem, en Toyohibiki pushed em out en e fell down kalled yorikiri.

M9 Yoshikaze (3-6) vs. M14 Sadanofuji (5-4)
These fellers just slapppin en slapppin, en thet's all I hev t say 'bout thet, cuz Sadanofuji thet one's bigger, en if I wuz bign fat lakh thet I'ze say, "go 'head en slapp me, boy, slapppin muh fat mite sting but it shore don hurt!" They's said this push out by Sadanofuji wuz "tsukidashi" but looks t me lakh jus sum dum slapppin.

M16 Amuru (2-7) vs. M9 Jokoryu (4-5)
Thet leetle feller Amuru wuz smart. Jokoryu git a hand inside on d belt of Amuru, but Amuru put back his butt like cow don want get melked, en Amuru then reeched in en get d belt of Jokoryu en drived hem out en felled hem down kalled yoritaoshi.

M8 Shohozan (0-9) vs. M11 Kyokutenho (4-5)
There's always a man standin onner the dirt there warin a dress, en I don no y. This one hez pink dress en shout de loudest lakh to sceer a horse back inna paddy. Anyway, Shohozan he charge in but ifn ya don keep yer feet with yer t other feller gunna pik u up jes lakh Kyokutenho did, got long arms gud fer milkin, en lif up on Goldenrod-Shohozan en spind im round from up hi en stepped hem outn the straw kalled kotenage. Hees smert thet one Kyokutenho.

M7 Homarefuji (5-4) vs. M11 Osunaarashi (7-2)
Nuh lakh I been sayin, don do no gud jes pushn im inna face, gotta do summat elst, too. So this feller Osunaarashi, wat must bathe in glu an sleep in tha sheep pen, pushed Homarefuji sum inna face but onlee cuz then he reach in en grab de belt, an Homarefuji wuz stunned lakh goat when ya throw a rock at em t mek em go here en there, Homarefuji jes wuz stunned by them face pushes en cud be grebbbed en led round by tha belt, en led out, en then Osunaarashi gived hem one more slappindaface wen e push em out too. Kalled oshidashi but fer me look lots like ketchin a goat been bad en bring em beck tie em up.

M6 Aminishiki (8-1) vs. M7 Tokushoryu (5-4)
I been wetchin thet Tokushoryu fer sum days now en I don thenk him izn any gud, but he kep pushin, en Aminishiki try pullin too soon, en thet heps tha pushin', when ya pullin'. So Tokushoryu teks thet chance en pushes hem Aminishiki over tuther side, then hem Tokushoryu do the pullin', but with more room, en nows too late fer Aminishiki, getn shoved down by Tokoshoryu oshitaoshi en litrally addin injery t'insult cuz Aminishiki get hurt. Thet shud teech him not to do so much pullin, poor feller.

M5 Toyonoshima (5-2) vs. M10 Kyokushuho (3-6)
This wuz sad cuz Toyonoshima cum forrard getting slappped inna face but den Kyokushuho pullm down hatakikomi. Look dum.

M3 Takayasu (1-8) vs. M8 Tokitenku (3-6)
Tokitenku pull im hard en try git im down raht away but din work, wots gud cuz din seem lakh fair. Then them twos grappplin ech uther with er arms en not much heppenin, but Ize glad t say Takayasu then pull thet dum Tokitenku when Tokitenku tryn kik Takayasu, en Takayasu thrown hem at thet moment en down fell Tokitenku's knee lakh man goin' inna pew at church, called uwatehineri.

M2 Sadanoumi (1-8) vs. M3 Aoiyama (2-7)
Aoiyama udders so big mek me member think on melkin cows n such. Sadanoumi look lakh a man unner a cow workin t'udder he's so small. Cept he reech in under en past em udders en with a long arm greb tha belt of Aoiyama en start to pull Aoiyama cross the ring, en Aoiyama din bring his feets he lef his feets back in the stall en so he fell down hatakikomi. Don do that wen youze unner a cow let it fall on u lakh that, lakh to git keeled cuz cows heviern Aoiyama even.

M1 Tochiohzan (5-4) vs. M2 Takarafuji (4-5)
Afore they start Tochiohzan hem sneeked forrard on his feet slidin inna sand lakh a snake gonna bite yer ankle, then tried git inside on Takarafuji, but insted Takarfuji din let im, en get himself inside of Tochiohzan instead, en thet's all ya haf to no to no Takarafuji beet hem yorikiri.

K Tamawashi (3-6) vs. M1 Ichinojo (5-4)
Ichinojo thet one is fat, en lakh I sed afore, don slap fat, it jes sting. Ichinojo's face is fat en so Tamawashi slapped it lakh to squeeze a baby's cheeks, en thet annoyed Ichinojo but don hurt hem none, en so Ichinojo got mad with them cheek pinchin's by Tamawashi like sum ole aunt, en Ichinojo ferst push hem out en then push hem out some more, what they kalls "dame oshi.".

M4 Tochinoshin (5-4) vs. K Myogiryu (4-5)
Lakh I ain't got nuthin t say cept as Myogiryu smaller but look lakh bigger cuz he whupped Tochinoshin gud, called oshidashi. Heeyah, git!

S Terunofuji (8-1) vs. O Kotoshogiku (6-3)
Kotoshogiku ver busy humpin hem Terunofuji lakh hem a sheep, en Terunofuji jes standin there much lahk a sheep too, ceptin he kept one hip turned to Kotoshigiku lakh t say, "kep yer dirty sef offn me!" En then to boot Kotoghogiku try to push hem Terunofuji's hed down en pull his hair almos lakh, en even sheep don lakh their hair pulled neither, en Terunofuji get mad and pushn hem Kotoshogiku out then insted oshidashi. Bes thing fer a sheep to do when getting humped lakh that is wait lakh Terunofuji did en when tuther lose concentration turn en ram em lakh he done. I don lakh to see such things tween two fellers lakh this in publik, ceptin well in this here sport sumtimes it looks lakh nachrul, en I dun thought the same theng many a time when watchin tha sheep en goats cuz I'ze tellin u all kinds a things iz nachrul you'll lern ifn u spend enuf time in beckyard en not with yer nose inna book. Me granpap sed better hev a shovel fulla manure in yer hand than a book enny day en well maybe I cain't spel much but I sure ken handle a shovel gud enuf fer you.

O Kisenosato (6-3) vs. O Goeido (6-3)
Nuthin ta lose here fer neither feller en so they fawt hard, but Goeido hems arms look short en hisn body look small in this fight en Kisenosato kep them leetle arms of Goedio up en offn his own body en so push hem out yorikiri cuz he's bigger en his arms is lenger.

Y Hakuho (9-0) vs. M4 Takekaze (1-8)
Why this feller Hakuho bother t go a slapppin round here wid this leetle feller Takekaze I don no, but it worked out fine fer hem cuz he look lakh he's playin in tha park but t'uther feller Takekaze look lakh surviving fer deer life en get sceered en disornted en kinda stagger round lakh confused goat who don wanna do wat u wan hem to do but begin t'unnerstand u jes biggern hem en so he gotta do it anyhow. En wen Takekaze got disornted lakh that Hakuho push hem out oshidashi but he's jes playin wid hem. Sumtimes goats is fun, see, tain't all work, sum is kinder cute lakh Takekaze.

M6 Kaisei (4-5) vs. Y Harumafuji (6-3)
Kaisei is reel big but Harumafuji is reel strong. Kaisei got both his meaty hands round Harumafuji's upper body lakh holdin a goat fer castratin, but dint get any belt en that was a mistake. He got Harumafuji wrenched all tha way over to tha straw en almost lifted hem out, but Harumafuji's strong and wunt u be too ifn they wuz gunna castrate u. En so he called on all his inner strength right at tha ej so he cud git beck t tha midle en not git castrated, en it worked. En tho Kaisei had hem held so tight an smotherin round the shoulders, Harumafuji had both hands on tha belt of Kaisei, en thet's enuf. Well, thet big fat Kaisei kep smotherin en workin, but in the end, ifn u got castratin' to do, I rekimmend holdin round the belt, bettern holdin by the shoulders, course, so hoo got castrated in tha end wuz Kaisei by kotenage coure cuz Harumafuji had both hands down mongst the folds en thet's where it counts.

Well, Harvye still ain't wake, but I'll threw sum wadder on im he'll be aright I reckon. I thenk one a them uther fellers'll write nekst morrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
First and foremost, apologies on the quiet weekend at ST. I was maybe going to comment on the day 7 bouts, and then work prevented that Kelly feller from doing day 8, and so I'll briefly touch on the weekend before I get to my day 9 comments. I really enjoyed the Sunday broadcast where NHK brought in an old-time stand-up comedian (and former politician) named Kiyoshi Nishikawa, who was a die-hard sumo fan from an early age. Nishikawa is currently 68 years old, and at one point they showed an old photo of him with his siblings when he was 11 years old. He saw the photo and commented that he was already a big sumo fan by then, and so when they asked him about his favorites, he started listing off former Yokozuna like Chiyonoyama and Yoshibayama who were the sport's 41st and 43rd Yokozuna respectively.

Throughout the day 8 broadcast they showed footage of these two guys and a host of other bouts from that era, and I think they actually ended up showing more bouts from the past than the actual number of Makuuchi bouts that comprised day 8. Now, of course they are only going to show really good bouts from that era featuring rikishi in the elite ranks, but I couldn't help but notice the great contrast in the sumo of that day compared to the Japanese rikishi here and now. In particular, I'm talking about style and content. The basics of sumo--and this is exactly what is practiced repeatedly in keiko each morning--is to charge hard at the tachi-ai and establish a position to the inside from where a rikishi can then attempt to gain the upper hand over his opponent. The only elite Japanese rikishi who can sorta do that now is Ozeki Kotoshogiku, but he is so spent and broken down that it doesn't matter what kind of position he creates at the tachi-ai; he is largely at the mercy of his foe. The sound sumo displayed in all of those old clips and the ability to successfully apply sound sumo at the highest echelons of the sport is literally becoming a lost art among the Japanese rikishi. In fact, the last guy who was truly able to perform elite sumo among the top ranks was former Ozeki Kaio, and those of you who missed out on Kaio in his prime truly missed out.

Currently, the Mongolians are the ones who are preserving sumo at the highest ranks in the manner in which it was meant to be fought, and I could also argue that their cooperation is the key to preserving the sport in general. We would see that cooperation take place in two big bouts over the weekend, both of which I'll comment on later.

With that said, let's focus our attention to the day 9 bouts by first examining our bloated leaderboard that shapes up as follows:

8-0: Hakuho
7-1: Terunofuji, Aminishiki
6-2: Harumafuji, Kotoshogiku, Toyonoshima, Osunaarashi, Chiyootori, Gagamaru

Regardless of the large number of rikishi on that leaderboard, the yusho race doesn't officially start until Hakuho decides to drop a bout, and there'd be no sense in his dropping one to M3 Aoiyama today.  After both rikishi bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai, they both hooked back up the second time around in the migi-yotsu position. Neither had the left outer grip at this point, but Aoiyama hurriedly went for a maki-kae with the right whereupon Hakuho just swung him over and down with the left arm at the outer belt. Hakuho once again dispatches an opponent in mere seconds as he skates to 9-0 while Aoiyama falls to 2-7.

Moving along to the one-loss rikishi, Sekiwake Terunofuji leads the way as he looked to get past Komusubi Myogiryu today. Before we get to the bout, it's worth mentioning that Terunofuji became the first guy since World War II to start out 6-0 in his debut tournament in the sanyaku. He actually increased that start to 7-0 with a win over Tochiohzan on Saturday, and the accomplishment received quite a bit of run in the press. Of course when he met up with the mighty Ozeki Kisenosato on day 8, he just couldn't quite get past one of Japan's elite darn it! Going back to my intro, in the face of this Mongolian invasion and the lack of any real presence by a Japanese rikishi, allowing one of Japan's perceived elite to put a stop to the red hot, red-breaking Terunofuji maintains the illusion that the Japanese rikishi can still hang with the sport's best. Furthermore, the contest was a prolonged yotsu-zumo bout at the belt giving the appearance--for that day at least--that Kisenosato is a great belt fighter, but if you watch sumo on a daily basis, you of course know that very few of Kisenosato's bouts end up in that fashion, especially when he wins. In other words, Kisenosato is not capable of creating such sumo on his own, and so I refer you back to my statement on day 5 that read: "The current three Ozeki are not capable of establishing and maintaining a bout of o-zumo unless that's what their opponents decide to do." Day 8 illustrates that point exactly, and it's these types of nuggets that help maintain interest in sumo from the Japanese public because it gives them hope.

Back to his day 9 bout, Terunofuji flirted with the right arm to the inside against Myogiryu but immediately switched gears and grabbed the Komusubi by the right arm threatening kote-nage but ending up grabbing the left outer grip and bodying Myogiryu to the edge in front of the head judge. Terunofuji gave up moro-zashi in the process, but that's a position he's perfectly comfortable fighting from and it showed as he used a powerful right outer grip and sheer strength to keep Myogiryu upright before lifting the Bear off his feet and then bodying him back and out yori-kiri style leading with those two outside positions. Great stuff yet again from Terunofuji who clinches kachi-koshi at 8-1, and if you're new to sumo and are wondering what a real Ozeki looks like, here's one in the making. Myogiryu falls to 4-5, but he's had a solid basho and will have a much easier schedule the rest of the way. It will be interesting to see what Terunofuji chooses to do tomorrow against Kotoshogiku. I can already tell you that the Geeku is physically incapable of beating Terunofuji at this point in a straight up bout, so will Terunofuji just plow through him? Or will another Japanese elite rikishi knock Terunofuji out of the yusho race? It's why we watch innit?

Our other one-loss rikishi, M6 Aminishiki, set up M9 Jokoryu with some effective shoves to the neck, and with Jokoryu completely upright, he was ripe for the pull, and Aminishiki knows a pull opp when he sees one easily dragging Jokoryu down by the back of the head. It hasn't been pretty, and it certainly hasn't been solid sumo, but Aminishiki improves to 8-1 and stays one loss off of the leader. Jokoryu falls to 4-5.

Yokozuna Harumafuji leads the way among the two-loss rikishi, and today against another two-loss rikishi in M5 Toyonoshima, the Yokozuna focused on tsuppari into Toyonoshima's neck, but he failed to realize that Toyonoshima has no neck, and so with the Yokozuna's wild shoves really failing to take effect, Toyonoshima kept his left arm low threatening it to the inside as the Yokozuna continued to wildly flail away with his tsuppari. At the edge just when it looked as if Harumafuji would score the final blow, Toyonoshima slipped right and escorted the Yokozuna out by the back of the belt. I thought Harumafuji's effort here was intentionally sloppy, and watching the slow motion replays, his actions just didn't look characteristic of a rikishi trying to win. Regardless, Toyonoshima keeps pace at 7-2 while Harumafuji is off the leaderboard for now at 6-3.

It used to be that an Ozeki duel this early in the basho was a treat, but lately two Ozeki fighting has been akin to watching midget wrestling although not quite as entertaining. Anyway, Ozeki Kotoshogiku and Ozeki Goeido clashed in migi yotsu where Kotoshogiku just stood there not committing on anything and waited for Goeido to make his move. Said move was Goeido's slipping out to his left and executing a weak tsuki-otoshi push at the Geeku's right shoulder that sent Kotoshogiku into an exaggerated tumble across the dohyo and off. This one is definitely not going down in the archives as of those Naniwa Meishobu bouts they keep showing each day as both Ozeki end the day at 6-3.

We have to travel a ways down the banzuke to get to our next two-loss rikishi, M11 Osunaarashi, who stuck with his new tsuppari-to-the-neck tachi-ai against M15 Toyohibiki and was able to grab the left outer grip and drag Toyohibiki around a bit keeping him at bay with a right hand to the face, and after a few steps of dragging, Osunaarashi assumed the manlove position and swanked his opponent over and out for the okuri-dashi win. Ugly but effective as Osunaarashi is on a roll now at 7-2, and the one constant in all of this is the adjustment he made at the tachi-ai where he has abandoned the right kachi-age in favor of bruising tsuppari. No one lower in the ranks has been able to solve it yet including Toyohibiki who falls to 5-4.

M12 Chiyootori got the left arm to the inside from the tachi-ai but kept his right arm high and tight in no man's land allowing M13 Ikioi to pivot right, yank Chiyootori off balance by pulling his right arm kote-nage style, and then finish him off with a fistful of mage as he pulled Chiyootori to the dirt. The judges called a mono-ii suspicious of a hair pull, and sure enough, the video replays confirmed it. Ikioi (5-4) drops a tough one here after being disqualified while Chiyootori maintains his leaderboard status at 7-2 thanks to the blunder.

Our final leader, M15 Gagamaru, used a right paw into M10 Kyokushuho's neck and the left arm deep inside to dismantle his foe straight back yori-kiri style in a manner similar to Hakuho when he means bidness. Like Osunaarashi, Gagamaru has found his groove in the lower ranks to the tune of a 7-2 start while Kyokushuho has been lousy for the most part at 3-6.

So, before we move to other bouts of interest, let's reshuffle the leaderboard in preparation for day 10:

9-0: Hakuho
8-1: Terunofuji, Aminishiki
7-2: Toyonoshima, Osunaarashi, Chiyootori, Gagamaru

Once you get past Terunofuji, I don't know that I've ever seen such a motley crew of "leaders," but sumo hasn't been about the yusho race for several years now, so it certainly shouldn't dampen fan interest. A loss by Hakuho would inject more fake drama into the tournament, but that prospect will have to wait until at least day 11 as Hakuho draws Takekaze tomorrow.

In other bouts of interest, Ozeki Kisenosato and M4 Takekaze sorta hooked up in migi-yotsu, but both rikishi are so bad at the tachi-ai that no one committed to anything. With Takekaze's right arm high up around the Ozeki's left shoulder, Kisenosato just plowed forward scoring the two second win where Takekaze didn't even bother to counter. Kisenosato moves to 6-3 with the win while Takekaze falls to 1-8. With the three Ozeki all standing at 6-3, the last six days will be a matter of conjuring up two wins for each of them and then maybe throwing the fans a bone or two towards the end with an upset.

M1 Tochiohzan stayed low at the tachi-ai looking to get the early arm inside while Komusubi Tamawashi tried to keep his foe at bay with a hand to the neck and one at the shoulder, but Tochiohzan was a bulldog here persisting his way deep to the inside and shoving Tamawashi back and out as the Komusubi looked to retreat out of the certain moro-zashi hold coming his way. Tochiohzan improves to a quiet 5-4 with the win, and this dude belongs in the sanyaku. Tamawashi falls to 3-6.

The best bout of o-zumo on the day was a gappuri migi yotsu between M1 Ichinojo and M6 Kaisei where Ichinojo resorted to that style of sumo oft-seen in his first basho in the division where he would just hunker down and wait. After about 30 seconds of inaction, Ichinojo tested the yori-kiri waters, but as he did so, Kaisei countered brilliantly with a right scoop throw that threw Joe off balance and broke off his outer grip. The Mongolith survived the scare, but Kaisei came out of the fray with moro-zashi and forced Ichinojo back to the bales where he dug in nicely and pulled off a maki-kae with the right hand putting us right back where we started (sigh). After gathering their wits, Ichinojo dug in for another 20 seconds or so before shaking his hips and knocking off Kaisei's outer grip, and at this point, the Brasilian was gassed and forced across the straw with no means to counter. Classic Ichinojo sumo here as he moves to 5-4 while Kaisei falls to 4-5. Before we move on, Ichinojo's allowing Goeido to defeat him on day 7 was another example of where a Mongolian not only defers to a Japanese Ozeki, but he makes it look like a bout of o-zumo in the process giving more credence to the Ozeki's sumo skills. It's such a ruse, but it continues to work wonders for sumo's popularity.

M3 Takayasu and M2 Sadanoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu at the tachi-ai where Takayasu grabbed the early right outer grip thanks to no defense from Sadanoumi. As Takayasu immediately pressed forward, Sadanoumi didn't counter with anything allowing Takayasu to force him back and down onto his widdle bum across the edge. Pure yaocho here as both rikishi end the day at 1-8.

M2 Takarafuji got his left to the inside against M8 Tokitenku who looked to immediately back out of the belt contest and circle his way around the ring looking for a pull opportunity, but he could never really get settled, and by the time he committed on that first pull, Takarafuji had caught up with him using that initial left arm to the inside to force Tokitenku out with ease. Ta Ka Ra Boom de-ay moves to 4-5 while Tokitenku is 3-6.

M4 Tochinoshin offered two hands to the neck against M7 Tokushoryu, but Tokushoryu came in lower threatening more effective pushes, and so Tochinoshin stupidly retreated and went for a weak pull getting shoved out with some oomph in a matter of seconds. This is what a true upset in sumo looks like as both dudes finish at 5-4.

M8 Shohozan used wild tsuppari at the tachi-ai yet again today firing them towards M13 Sokokurai's neck, but he quickly abandoned that tactic and slipped out right lucky that Sokokurai wasn't in hot pursuit or Shohozan would have been pushed out with ease. After the ugly start, the two ended up in the gappuri hidari yotsu position, a stance that usually favors Sokokurai, but he only had one fold of the belt, and so the two dug in for pritnear a minute before Shohozan made a sloppy yori-kiri move where he stepped out across the straw before forcing Sokokurai all the way out. When it rains it pours as Shohozan falls to 0-9 with the isami-ashi loss while Sokokurai ekes forward at 5-4.

M9 Yoshikaze moved left at the tachi-ai offering a weak kote-nage on that side, and as M11 Kyokutenho looked to square up, Yoshikaze assumed moro-zashi, but the attack was so hurried and set up with a poor tachi-ai that Kyokutenho was able to settle his feet, pivot strongly to his left, and then escort Yoshikaze out kime-dashi style. Don't look now but Kyokutenho is on a roll as he improves to 4-5. Yoshikaze loses more fizz at 3-6.

If there was one thing that was going to make me write a report yesterday, it would have been to announce M12 Kotoyuki's withdrawal for the day due to severe diarrhea. Bob the Barker was back today, however, ready to face M14 Sadanofuji, but he took an unusually long time before he actually charged opting to just sit there and squat for an eternity. I was like, 'Oh no, please tell me we don't have a leak here,' but it turns out that Kotoyuki was just taking a page out of his shisho's playbook of stall tactics. I guess it worked because when the two finally did clash, Kotoyuki's tsuppari were better focused into his opponent's torso not to mention the accompanying footwork, so Kotoyuki made short work of the Sadamight scoring the oshi-dashi win. Kotoyuki moves to 4-5 in the process while Sadanofuji falls to 5-4 after that hot 4-0 start.

M14 Arawashi quickly gained moro-zashi against M16 Chiyomaru and that was all she wrote as the Mongolian moves to 5-4 while Chiyomaru falls beneath .500 at 4-5.

And finally, M16 Amuuru kept his arms in tight allowing J3 Tamaasuka to nudge him back to the straw where out of nowhere the Russian scooted right and escorted Tamaasuka across with a push at the back fo the left arm. It took them awhile to even come up with a kimari-te because it was such unorthodox sumo, and they finally ruled it yori-kiri in the end. Yori-kiri?! Whatever the judging committee is smoking, I want some of it. I'll need something to convince me that the yusho is still undecided.

Harvye's back up tomorrow.

Day 6 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Osaka is a grittier town than Tokyo, a meatier town than Nagoya, and a messier town than Fukuoka. It is a working class place where a local dialect greeting includes "are you making any money?" and where people will cross the street on red. It is a chief source of Japanese entertainers, popular expression, and emotion. Some people say the locals are friendlier, others say they are ruder; everybody has an opinion.

All of this makes it a great sumo town, and of the three venues I've been to, Osaka is my easy favorite. In Tokyo at the Kokugikan, all the seats feel far away. In Osaka, all the seats feel close. In Nagoya it is too hot and you feel like you're watching something in an oversized high school gymnasium (actually I like that a lot, too); in Osaka, the venue is more darkly lit and you feel like the gods of sumo are perched grinning on your shoulders--chaos could break out at any minute. Try a bowl of udon in the restaurant in the caverns, and your neighbors at the tables will be rikishi. Grab a beer in the hallways and you will pass wrestlers who have to go through the same halls in order to get to and from the ring--Kitazakura almost knocked me down one time. I wasn't looking for wrestlers; the place is lousy with them.

The Osaka venue feels intimate, and if you get a chance to watch sumo there, you should. Go in the morning and soak up the atmosphere at your leisure, poking around the tunnels and halls. Sink into concentration in the afternoon as the day's slow pace draws you into the bouts and the venue fills like ice water pooling in a drill hole in the lake ice. In the morning you can get as close as you like, no questions asked; I spent around an hour in the third row of zabutons, no question asked. The two guys in the close up pic I took of the dohyo landed with a clay-edge cracking thud in front of me with such force the scattering of other seat-poachers around me gasped. Wandering about the arena, I found the famed "antique wheelchair," looking sad and lonely after ferrying Endo out of the basho and prolly to the end of his line yesterday. Wrestlers are all over the place: buying o-miyage (a lot of the guys are country boys still living a very new, very alien life), getting themselves a drink, chatting with the vets retired to ticket-taker status, waiting to mount the clay.

All the pictures I took except for the Yokozuna ceremony shot were before noon; you can see the venue is nearly completely empty. While that may look desolate, it isn't: it is a leisurely, friendly, laid back time at the venue, a good time to soak. By the time the afternoon comes, drama has built, and you're primed. Yes: watch sumo live in Osaka.

Today, I did. This report was written "live" from the arena. That means no replays, no extra angles, no commentary, no close-ups. The seats are tiny and in order to have enough room to write on my laptop and to save my aching knees (Kotooshu and I are the same height--yes, really), I was peripatetic, writing from at least three different seats, including a roomy spot two rows from the back for an hour. That means I went with the rhythm of the day and the slow march of the ceremony--easy to forget when you're doing each day by YouTube--and with the smells and the peanut shells. After I left I edited it up to make sure it wasn't a mess, yes, and I wrote some of the headers and such last night to prep, but I didn't re-watch any of the matches. What I saw is what you get, and here's hoping you can git sum' too. There was a learning curve to this, and I found I struggled mightily the first hour while trying to focus on the bouts, and felt much better the second hour when I focused on something else (you'll see).

M14 Sadanofuji (4-1) vs. M16 Chiyomaru (2-3)
A battle of thrusts and slaps. To my surprise, Chiyomaru, who doesn't have much, had Sadanofuji going backwards first. But Sada has been on fire this tournament, and with a little patience he soon turned it around and had Chiyomaru reversed all the way back to the bales. They had one more progress reversal; in the end Sadanofuji had to go accept going backwards to win, letting Chiyomaru fall on his face in front of him. Nevertheless, his hot start continues.

M13 Ikioi (3-2) vs. M15 Toyohibiki (3-2)
Of all the wrestlers, including Goeido, hometown boy Ikioi probably got the biggest reaction during the ring-entering ceremony. Unfortunately for him, this one was all Toyohibiki, who brought his big bulk forward like a Panzer and achieved a good hand to the neck. There was a moment when Ikioi was jumping out at the end when the crowd thought Toyohibiki might fall first, but this one was all Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki). Ikioi, Ikioi, oi, oi oi, my boy.

M16 Amuuru (2-3) vs. M13 Sokokurai (2-3)
Both wrestlers stayed low and tried to get inside; with their butts thrust back, neither could get a belt. There was a moment of hesitation while they sussed each other out, and here is where Sokokurai, who has less power, had the less advantage: Amuuru has less experience. Sokokurai proceeded to twist and spin his opponent a bit, and pretty soon Amuuru couldn't take it and fell down.

M15 Gagamaru (3-2) vs. M12 Kotoyuki (2-3)
As is his wont, Kotoyuki, even if forbidden to bark, spent plenty of time obsessing about himself--staring into the crowd, slapping his flabby arms, wandering all over the dohyo. Somebody likes attention (well, if we're honest, don't we all!). And… he barked. And the crowd loved it. Fortunately, Gagamaru ignored all this and put a fat paw into Kotoyuki's grill. Kotoyuki didn't like that much, and Gagamaru soon had his disoriented opponent pushed out. Happy me.

M11 Osunaarashi (3-2) vs. M14 Arawashi (2-3)
Slap fest. Arawashi had little chance in this one, and just tried to evade. Simple physical mismatch; Osunaarashi pushed him out forthwith.

M12 Chiyootori (5-0) vs. M11 Kyokutenho (1-4)
This looked to be two guys going in different direction: a fading Kyokutenho against a guy on a tear. Interestingly, Kyokutenho was the clear crowd favorite in the (relatively) cheap seats where I was sitting. And he pulled it out.. but now, here we see the problem with writing live. In writing up the atmospherics there (yes, I'm sitting in the arena with my computer in my lap and frantically typing the moment the gunbai flashes thither), I forgot most of what happened in the bout. It was over quick: Kyokutenho stayed lower and tighter inside and forced Chiyootori out. I think. What I do remember is this one almost looked too easy; Chiyootori was already stepping politely out before he was done: "oh, am I near the bales. Okay, good job, man!"

M10 Kyokushuho (2-3) vs. M9 Jokoryu (3-2)
Jokoryu stayed very low, an upside down letter "L," and soon added an inside right to his outer left. Curtains.

M10 Kitataiki (3-2) vs. M8 Tokitenku (1-4)
For whatever reason, this match attracted eight prize banners, and I know it wasn't for Tokitenku, The Grumpy Hermit of the Windbitten Steppe. Why Christmas Cake (Kitataiki) would be so popular I don't know. Anyway, Kitataiki got the momentum, and Tokitenku's best chance was a tottari attempt--he had one of Kitataiki's arms. But Kitataiki kept moving forward and had a lower position, and won. Tokitenku looked ineffectual here.

M7 Homarefuji (4-1) vs. M9 Yoshikaze (2-3)
Homarefuji looked to be in a good position to continue his hot start here against perpetually hot-or-cold Yoshikaze, and was even attracting a lot of positive attention from the crowd.

Just before the fight, Homarefuji hit himself in the face with both hands repeatedly harder than I've ever seen a wrestler do this, like the Stormtrooper back in the barracks in the evening after he inspected that Landspeeder: "those WERE the droids we were looking for!"

Unfortunately, the crowd, which was a smart crowd in general today, had only groans for the outcome, and rightly so, even though Homarefuji won: it was a false start by Homarefuji, but the gyoji didn't call it, and Yoshikaze was walked out like a luggage rack in the Motel Six hallway. Grumbles surrounded me.

M8 Shohozan (0-5) vs. M7 Tokushoryu (2-3)
Lots of hesitation before the start, hands up and down, like guys playing goh. Very good match, though. I think Shohozan has the better skills, and he showed it by standing Tokushoryu up and driving him straight back. However, this was another size mismatch, and for several tournaments now the problems Shohozan's size deficit creates have been all too obvious. Tokushoryu shopped Shohozan's advance at the edge, got a grip on him, and rapidly drove him all the way across. Right at the opposite tawara, Shohozan tried to save himself with a throw, and there was that classic sumo moment where they both had a leg in the air and it could go either way, but Shohozan collapsed first, and somewhat anticlimactically, before Tokushoryu could throw him.

Meanwhile, some no doubt talented and probably professionally employed photographer kitty-korner across the way is flashing away with great intensity during the bouts--right in my line of sight. I think I'm going blind. Could you cut that out, I'm trying to write an amateur sumo report here!

M6 Kaisei (2-3) vs. M5 Endo (4-1)
As you saw yesterday, Endo could barely stand after his match, and he had to be wheeled out in the famous chair I took a picture of. He goes Kyujo today and Kaisei picks up the free win.

M5 Toyonoshima (4-1) vs. M4 Tochinoshin (4-1)
I was looking forward to this one, and so was the crowd. It lived up. Tochinoshin, being so much bigger, was both above and below Toyonoshima: he was standing taller, but was able to reach his arms under. He then got to Toyonoshima's neck, and was pushing hard. Twice, he got Toyonoshima near the edge. But here is a word to learn: "nebaru:" to stick, or be stubborn. Toyonoshima nebari'ed, and kept plugging his stubby arms inside Tochinoshin's advance grips. Eventually, Tochinoshin pushed too hard at the wrong time, and lightning quick, amazing for a Tugboat, Toyonoshima slipped out his right, got behind Tochinoshin, and pushed his suddenly dispirited opponent out from behind. Good stuff.

M2 Sadanoumi (0-5) vs. M6 Aminishiki (5-0)
Lots of crowd calls in this one, about even for both names, but probably slightly more for Sadanoumi. I added my voice for Aminishiki, first guy to sufficiently motivate me today. In our first match of the defeated vs. the undefeated, the severely over-ranked Sadanoumi probably needed charity to win this one, and he didn't get it. This was fairly classic Aminishiki; Sadanoumi had the momentum and looked like a winner, but the vet, Amishneaky, slipped easily to the side at the very last moment, danced the tawara, and a frustrated Sadanoumi flopped down to 0-6. Aminishiki moved only backwards, but he doesn't care how it gets done.

M2 Takarafuji (1-4) vs. K Myogiryu (3-2)
Very lopsided crowd support in this one: all Myogiryu. On the one hand, I was surprised: Takarafuji seems more the rising star to me. But I've criticized Takarafuji's passive/patient sumo before, and it would make sense if he is el-bland-o to the casual fan. Myogiryu may have started too high here, but all his busy thrusting and defending kept a similarly busy Takarafuji off the belt. They worked hard in this one, and pretty soon tired out and had a "lean against each other" break without the benefit of any belt holds--hands to shoulders and such. I thought the smaller Myogiryu was toast, but he re-engaged, and despite shorter arms was able to reach inside and grab the belt. After that he exhibited surprising power in forcing his man out straight away. Great stuff from Myogiryu here.

S Terunofuji (5-0) vs. M1 Tochiohzan (2-3)
First thing to say is Terunofuji looks big and has presence in person (or maybe it is just this first flush of new love?). Second thing to say is of course the crowd cared only for his opponent--although they were overall pretty subdued for this one. Tochiohzan instantly got what he wanted: both arms inside, moro-zashi. He then added a right grip all the way back on the belt at the knot, and he's pretty good: Terunofuji was leveraging, but couldn't move him. Teru then decided to reach over with his long arms for the same butt-belt grip: mistake. Tochiohzan took this moment to charge, and almost had it. But this also broke Tochiohzan's back belt grip for a moment. He got it back, but it was too late. Terunofuji is too big and too strong to handle for too long, and in a moment had his man pushed out. I've been saying it and I'll keep saying it, folks: The Future. Tochiohzan is skilled, sharp, and experienced, and gave his all here, but he couldn't beat his man.

M1 Ichinojo (3-2) vs. O Kotoshogiku (4-1)
Lots of talk in my vicinity about how big Ichinojo is. They liked him during the dohyo-iri too, lots more than they liked Terunofuji. Kotoshogiku elicited nary a peep from the peanut gallery around me, though there were plenty of shouts for him, and the crowd loved his back bend and salt throw. However, Ichinojo, with his bland look--slightly comical--and huge size may be building up some mild novelty popularity ala Masunoyama or a poor-man's, infinitely better Takamisakari. I agree with Mike--Terunofuji looks the better wrestler. But Ichinojo is the more interesting on a shallower level. The crowd was very into him and this bout, and there was the dead silence of concentration just before the start. Ichinojo let Kotoshogiku gaburu him near the edge; stuck there, the Iron Blob of Gravity Grease, he looked to me like he could have had the belt, but he didn't get it. Still, the Geeku couldn't sill the dill, and The Mongolith moved Koto back to the center. Now Ichinojo finally grabbed the belt, and that was it. The crowd was disappointed--but they enjoyed it.

O Kisenosato (2-3) vs. K Tamawashi (2-3)
Kisenosato is in trouble with this record and had to do something here. The crowd had a bit of the blahs for this one, and wouldn't you? We were coming down off a high. Tamawashi let Kisenosato get inside on him during this one; he did an odd hop of some sort like a guy who considered a henka but thought better of it. Then he was unable to do anything as Kisenosato did a little gaburi and disposed of him no problem. I hope to god this isn't the kind of opponent Kisenosato needs help with these days. I will choose to say he dominated him, which he did.

M4 Takekaze (0-5) vs. "O" Goeido (4-1)
This was interesting. I'd like to pretend that the crowd wasn't that into Goeido, but they definitely were. Goeido got 15 prize banners; most so far by far, and more than Hakuho who followed. One joker got the crowd going in a rhythmic chant for him, twice. However, I think the Japanese capacity for irony sometimes gets underestimated, and I felt a bit of that here. There wasn't passion in their cheering: they were just having a jolly time rooting for the home team. True to form, Goeido was sloppy. He had the momentum, but he was flailing all over with his arms and upper body, and Takekaze dumped him to the ground hiki-otoshi style. The guy behind me burst out laughing. I'll give the crowd credit: they enjoyed this silly loss as much as they enjoyed cheering it's run up. Today, Goeido was the Chicago Cubs.

Y Hakuho (5-0) vs. M3 Takayasu (0-5)
I was interested to see how the crowd would approach this one, and it was mostly… disinterest. There were a lot of calls for Takayasu, but the Goeido farce had already ended the crowd's day on a fun note. People were getting up to leave. For the second and last time today, I lent support: I gave a loud and very long shout for Hakuho. This was not appreciated; old make-up-caked, big-tinted-glasses woman sitting in front of me sneered and give me a sidelong evil-eye.

Then: I love what Hakuho chose to do in the match: he mocked Takayasu, mocked the crowd, mocked all of it. He. Just. Stood. There. He didn't advance, didn't retreat, didn't try to reach in. Takayasu made little feints and thrusts, and Hakuho said, "Co'mon. Bring it. Try it. I'm here, buddy." Takayasu never got close to putting Hakuho on the slightest bit of the back foot. And still Hakuho still just stood there, tensed but immobile. "This the best you got? See how it is."

See how it is.

And finally Hakuho said, "okay, enough;" having made his point, he reached in and pulled Takayasu down by the head, like the local troublemaker knocking down a rickety bookshelf of children's literature at the county library. So simple, so easy. I could hardly believe how easy it looked. Point made. This was my favorite match of the day.

M3 Aoiyama (1-4) vs. Y Harumafuji (4-1)
The crowd was really done by this point, and so was I. We did enjoy some of Harumafuji's show of lithe strength, coiled tiger. This got a major roar. But the bout was anti-climactic; Harumafuji wanted to win, is much better than Aoiyama, and surged in and under and walked Aoiyama back and out, hot butter on the dash of the Chevy in Carolina summer.

Tomorrow you enjoy sumo again and I go to the office to make up for today (not really… well, kind of). But! I had fun. I felt like you were here with me--that may sound strange, but it was true. There was a unique and comradely intensity about reporting "live." Let's buy a prize banner; I hear it's $600: "sumotalk.com."

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I love it when NHK produces graphics as part of the broadcast because it means that I get to comment on it even though I didn't have to do any of the research! During the broadcast today, they showed a rather dubious graphic that listed the Ozeki who took the longest amount of time to capture their first yusho after being promoted to the rank. Chiyotaikai heads the list at 21 basho, and he is then followed by Kotooshu and Konishiki tied at 15 basho. After those top three rikishi who are all retired, they then listed the current Ozeki and their numbers in parenthesis, and it doesn't look good. Kotoshogiku is now tied with Chiyotaikai at 21 basho; Kisenosato is close behind at 20 basho; and then Goeido still has a way to go at just 4 basho.

The one caveat to this graphic is that the dubious leader, Chiyotaikai, secured his first career yusho from the Sekiwake rank, and so I think they created this chart emphasizing length of time after promotion to Ozeki to sort of soften the blow and say, "See, things aren't so bad with the current Ozeki because it took others a long time to yusho too." They could also be signaling to Goeido fans and prepping them in an effort to say, "Be patient for a few years, will ya?" Regardless, the timing is interesting because despite the quick starts from two of the Ozeki this basho, everyone knows they are nowhere near being yusho caliber rikishi. In fact, the three Ozeki are borderline jo'i rikishi, and if they had to go at it on their own as say Kasei has to do every basho, they'd be ranked right around where Kaisei is ranked. As I've said all along, you let these guys obtain the rank with shady sumo, you're going to have to maintain them in the rank using shady sumo. It's been a struggle just to get these guys to eight wins each basho, and so talk of the yusho is just laughable. In other words, there's no way NHK produced this thing to hint at a possible yusho run; rather, they're providing a soft landing for the domestic fans who come away each tournament disappointed that their guys aren't even close.

As for questionable sumo among the Ozeki ranks, today was fortunately the first day of the basho where the Just Say No [to yaocho] campaign was in full force, and it certainly showed not only in the results but in the content of the sumo. Before we get to that, however, let's start from the bottom yet again and work our way up as we conclude the jobansen, or first five days of the tourney.

M16 Chiyomaru charged with two hands into M15 Gagamaru's neck totally looking for the quick and dirty pull, but Gagamaru wasn't buying shat today and just plowed forward with his de-ashi and easily pushed Chiyomaru out as he retreated. Gagamaru one ups his gal at 3-2 while Chiyomaru is a sheepish 2-3.

M14 Arawashi shaded left at the tachi-ai against M16 Amuuru grabbing the early left outer grip with which he used to spin and pull Amuuru out of the ring before the Russian could establish a belt grip in order to counter. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and with Arawashi (2-3) coming into the day at 1-3, it's not a surprise he pulled a surprise. As for Amuuru and other newbies to the division, they not only have to learn how to win at this level, but they also have to get used to their opponents' shenanigans. The tough luck Russian falls to 2-3.

M12 Kotoyuki has been on a roll this basho using his tsuppari attack, but he was done in by M15 Toyohibiki at the tachi-ai who used an even beefier tsuppari attack to knock Kotoyuki upright and back in short order. It was actually kinda of nice to see a veteran humble the kid a bit today as Kotoyuki falls under water at 2-3. Toyohibiki is a relieved 3-2.

M14 Sadanofuji abandoned his tsuppari attack completely today settling for a hidari-yotsu affair with M11 Kyokutenho. And as gimpy as Tenho has looked this basho, he's a beyotch at the belt and showed it today grabbing the early right outer grip and dictating the pace throughout. Sadanofuji eventually grabbed a right outer of his own, but he expended more energy to get to that point, and so Kyokutenho pivoted as he does so well and spun Sadanofuji over and out with is defiant right outer grip. I don't understand why Sadanofuji starts out 4-0 with his shove attack and then completely abandons it today against a vulnerable dude over 40 whose only chance is a straight up belt contest. Regardless, Sadanofuji falls to 4-1 while Kyokutenho picks up that first win at 1-4..

Has M11 Osunaarashi found his new calling in the division? For the second day in a row, he's used effective tsuppari to set up his opponent instead of the usual right kachi-age. Against M13 Sokokurai, he pushed the Mongolian upright by the throat before grabbing the left outer grip and right inside position. Sokokurai slipped to the side cutting off that vital inside grip, but the damage had been done, so maintaining that stubborn left outer grip, Osunaarashi eventually opted to jab his right paw into Sokokurai's throat and force him out from there. Great stuff again from Osunaarashi, and perhaps the dude has had some sort of epiphany. He's got a 3-2 record now to show for it while Sokokurai falls to 2-3.

M13 Ikioi attempted a weak right kachi-age at the tachi-ai giving M10 Kitataiki prime position to the inside, and as Ikioi looked to retreat a step and shove out of his mistake, Kitataiki just bulldogged his way into moro-zashi driving Ikioi back to the straw. An agenda was in place here, however, in favor of the hometown kid, and so Kitataiki stopped short of driving his foe all the way back and just stood there for a few seconds waiting for Ikioi to counter at the edge. Ikioi had the kote-nage position with the right, but he instead attempted a lame tsuki-otoshi with the left hand at Kitataiki's elbow causing Kitataiki to just flop over and out. Yaocho all the way Jose as both dudes end the day at 3-2.

M12 Chiyootori charged hard against M9 Jokoryu coming out of the fray with the right inside, and while Jokoryu countered with the outside left, he had nothing to the inside, and so he backed out of the position looking for a pull. The move worked well creating some separation and causing Chiyootori to reach a bit to maintain the right inside, but Jokoryu stupidly went for another pull here that allowed Chiyootori to nuzzle in close again and this time score the push-out win. Chiyootori soars to 5-0 while Jokoryu'd like this one back at 3-2.

M10 Kyokushuho and M8 Tokitenku hooked up in the immediate gappuri migi-yotsu position meaning both had right insides and left outers, but Kyokushuho's chest was burrowed in tight keeping Tokitenku more upright than he wanted to be, and so Kyokushuho wrenched his opponent further upright with the left outer belt and then used that momentum to push Tokitenku back and across without argument. Shuho sorta rights the ship at 2-3 while Tokitenku is still licking his wounds at 1-4.

M9 Yoshikaze got the left arm to the inside at the tachi-ai against M7 Tokushoryu and attempted to get the right to the inside as well, but Tokushoryu fought the move off well and ended up inserting his left arm to the inside. With the two now too close for comfort, Tokushoryu simply exerted his size advantage muscling Yoshikaze over to the side and out for the straightforward yori-kiri win. Both gentlemen end the day at 2-3.

M8 Shohozan used his noisy tsuppari against M5 Endoh at the tachi-ai, but the shoves had no teeth allowing Endoh to stand his ground as he tried to latch onto one of Shohozan's extended arms. Frustrated, Shohozan went for a quick pull that yanked Endoh off balance, but he squared back up nicely and threatened the inside position, and so Shohozan retreated across to the other side of the ring pulling Endoh as he went. Somehow, Endoh was able slip to his right at the edge and yank Shohozan over and out for the win, but in the process, Shohozan landed on Endoh's left ankle keeping it in place as Elvis backflipped off the dohyo altogether.

Endoh was declared the victor in this sloppy affair, but he couldn't step back atop the dohyo to receive his prize and was taken to an Osaka hospital straightway. After checking the funny papers this morning, it looks like Endoh's out for two months with a serious injury to his left knee. This is a huge blow to the basho because it's clear that the Mongolians mean business and aren't doling out much charity, so a 4-1 start for Endoh would have been a great story to hype heading into the middle of the basho. At least his 4-11 record in the end will keep Elvis well in the division. As for Shohozan, he's got some work to do now at 0-5.

M7 Homarefuji gained the upper hand against M5 Toyonoshima with a nice series of tsuppari that kept Tugboat on his heels and left him no choice but to go for counter pulls. The savvy veteran was able to time just enough pulls to frustrate Homarefuji and keep him from going for the kill, and about six second in, Homarefuji was already gassed, and so the tsuppari become weaker and the penchant for a pull became stronger. It was at this point that Toyonoshima pounced forward and shoved the tired Homarefuji back and out for the comeback win. It's nice to see a veteran rikishi put a relative newcomer in his place like this and say 'not so fast, pardner.' Homarefuji suffers his first loss falling to 4-1, the same record enjoyed by Toyonoshima.

M4 Tochinoshin and M6 Kaisei engaged in the immediate gappuri migi yotsu affair from the tachi-ai in a classic bout of o-zumo. Kaisei made his move first leading with the left outer grip, but it was only on one fold of Tochinoshin's belt, and so the harder he yanked, the looser the belt became. This allowed Shin to stand his ground and dig in further, and once Kaisei's energy was expended, it was Tochinoshin's turn to mount his charge, and his left outside grip was much more effective allowing him to force Kaisei back to the edge on the other side where Kaisei simply ran out of room and stepped back that final step out of exhaustion. The affair lasted near 30 seconds and was the type of sumo you used to see from the Ozeki ranks.

M4 Takekaze actually had a decent tachi-ai ducking up and under M6 Aminishiki, but Takekaze immediately backed out of it going for a stupid pull without any hope of capitalizing on the move. Aminishiki did take advantage, however, sticking on his gal like stink to bait and pushing Takekaze back to the edge where he switched gears and hooked his left arm around Kaze's neck just throwing him down into a heap. Aminishiki skates to 5-0 with the win while Takekaze falls to 0-5.

Komusubi Myogiryu stood his ground well at the tachi-ai against M3 Aoiyama and persisted with his de-ashi pushing up and into Aoiyama. The Bulgarian relented too early and went for an inane pull allowing Myogiryu to pounce and score the easy push-out win. Aoiyama's poor choices in the ring have contributed to this 1-4 start while Myogiryu is poised to kachi-koshi at 3-2.

Sekiwake Terunofuji went for a hari-zashi tachi-ai against M2 Sadanoumi slapping with the right hand, but before he could complete the sashi part and get an arm to the inside, Sadanoumi ducked under Fuji's arms and seized moro-zashi. Dint matter though as Terunofuji pinched in tightly from the outside and easily swung the lighter Sadanoumi over and across the bales with a straightforward kime-dashi win. It's kinda nice watching Terunofuji when he's not obligated to give up any bouts, and his 5-0 start is no surprise to me. Sadanoumi's 0-5 start shouldn't be a surprise either, but I'm telling you, he's already better than the three Ozeki.

With M1 Ichinojo stepping up into the ring against Ozeki Kisenosato, it was simply a matter of would he or wouldn't he? Thankfully he didn't as Ichinojo took full advantage of Kisenosato's open tachi-ai getting his right ham to the inside with such force that it actually knocked the Ozeki back onto his heels. The not so speedy Ichinojo was moving forward well in this one, however, and put his left paw into the Ozeki's right shoulder and just shoved him back so hard the he sent Kisenosato into the fetal position on the arena floor below. They say a grainy cell phone picture is worth a thousand words, and so I took this shot of the TV that shows Kisenosato lying on the arena floor with Ichinojo already walking back to his side without a care in the world leaving the Ozeki in his wake. The yobi-dashi is just going about his business as usual while the judge next to him gives him a look out of curiosity. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that the Kisenosato from yesterday's bout against Takarafuji does not get done in like this by an M1 rikishi if that day 4 affair was straight up. It wasn't of course, and this is exactly what happens when someone with game tries to beat him. I'm sure the Ozeki will find a bit more charity the rest of the way, but he's got some ground to make up at 2-3. Ichinojo moves to 3-2, and the schedule is only going to get easier for him in week 2. Dude belongs in the sanyaku for sure.

You know what really bugs me about the Ozeki? Their sumo is so wild and unstable that it's hard to really describe it in words. Case in point was the Komusubi Tamawashi - Goeido matchup where Tamawashi used some nifty shoves into Goeido's neck completely halting his momentum and standing him upright. Goeido's reaction was to pull out of the fray, but there was nothing to pull and so he ended up creating complete separation. Both guys stood there for about 10 seconds trading weak shoves as if to say, "C'mon, you wanna piece of me?" Finally, Tamawashi ended the ugly affair by committing on a forward shove and pushing the Ozeki back and out with far too much ease. The Osaka faithful who buy into everything they're fed hook line and sinker must be going 'what happened?' And when you think about it, they're right. Goeido was 4-0 coming in, and Tamawashi had yet to defeat anyone but was 1-3 due to a win by default when a previous opponent withdrew. Furthermore, Tamawashi is a sanyaku newbie who didn't ever deserve the promotion, and yet...he kicks Goeido's ass with the tuski-dashi technique. I'm not sure how much longer the general population can be fooled, but damned if the man'in onrei banners weren't lowered again today, so I guess we keep up the ruse until it stops working. Tamawashi improves to 2-3 with the win today while Goeido suffers his first loss of the fortnight.

Last and probably least was Ozeki Kotoshogiku, who like Goeido, was a shiney 4-0 coming into the day. M1 Tochiohzan was only 1-3, however, and couldn't be bought in this one, so he got his left arm to the inside with ease at the tachi-ai and just forced Kotoshogiku back and across without really establishing anything with the right arm. The Ozeki in reality is so frail that Tochiohzan bested him with one arm today, and it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that reads ST. The result is that Kotoshogiku suffers his first loss of the basho while Tochiohzan creeps a bit closer to .500 at 2-3.

Before we move on, I know that many of you are bothered that I rarely seem to give credit to the Ozeki, but I am not partial to any rikishi these days, and I simply call what I see. I realize that upsets are part of sumo and that anyone can have a bad day, but not like this. None of the Ozeki could establish anything at the tachi-ai, and none of them were even close to winning their bouts. Kisenosato faced the toughest opponent, but just watch how Terunofuji fares against Ichinojo. Win or lose, that bout is going to the belt, and it will be an o-zumo affair where Terunofuji will at least make Ichinojo sweat. The current three Ozeki are not capable of establishing and maintaining a bout of o-zumo unless that's what their opponents decide to do, and it simply shows in the sumo. Today was a dose of reality, not a fluke.

Closing out the day, I was a bit surprised to see M3 Takayasu on the dohyo today to battle Yokozuna Harumafuji, and the Yokozuna put him out of his misery straightway charging a bit to his left, grabbing the back of Takayasu's belt, and just swinging him over and across without argument. While Harumafuji did step to the side a bit to grab the belt, he did halt Takayasu's forward momentum well with the right hand to his upper torso, and I had no problem with his sumo today. Takayasu falls to a tough-luck 0-5 but props to him for hanging in there. Harumafuji moves to 4-1, and I get the feeling that the Mongolians are going to be short on charity this basho.

In the day's final affair, Yokozuna Hakuho slammed into M1 Takarafuji getting moro-zashi straightway and felling Takarafuji instantly with a left scoop throw across the bales. With Hakuho's momentum still moving forward after the bout, he tripped over Takarafuji and actually used Fuji's face to break his fall as he leap frogged over him and into the first row drawing laughter from the crowd. I don't really remember Hakuho doing something mean like this before, and I think there is something going on right now where the Mongolians are just sick and tired of being treated like the fifth wheel on the sumo minivan, especially in light of all the guff Hakuho has been receiving in the press the last 6-7 weeks.

Oh, and while we're on the subject, the new buzzword surrounding the Yokozuna is "mugen," or silent. After the bouts each day, whenever they talk about Hakuho they use the term "mugen" to refer to the Yokozuna's refusal to open up to the media. This is a prime example of "ijime" in Japan where the press is taking full advantage of their bully pulpit, but Hakuho is the last guy you want to start a war with. If he goes 15-0 in Osaka too, it wouldn't surprise me to see him make a run at an undefeated 2015, but let's focus on the task at hand where Hakuho finishes the first five days at a perfect 5-0 while Takarafuji limps home at 1-4.

Harvye thankfully gives me a break from myself tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
With the novelty of the Osaka basho quickly waning due to Hakuho's steady start, the media is branching out in search of other stories now, and it appears that they've put a lot of focus on a dude who is fighting in mae-zumo this basho named Kazuki Ura (his shikona for now is his last name, but that may change as early as next basho). Ura, pictured at right, doesn't look a day over 14, but he's actually a local college kid from Kansai who has gained a bit of fame across the innernet for his acrobatic throws in the ring, not the least of which is the izori move, which is sorta like a fireman's carry where the attacker stays low and blindly flips his opponent backwards. Ura actually won using the izori throw in his first mae-zumo bout, which is presumably what has given the media this big stiffie regarding him, and while it's worth taking a look at the move due to the pure athleticism required during execution of the throw, such acrobatic moves won't work much past the Jonokuchi ranks.

I'm sure there have been guys that have pulled off the izori move in all divisions, but the most striking thing about Ura is just how small of stature he is. Burning a fifteen year old kid in mae-zumo is one thing, but trying a throw on a guy who weighs upwards of 150 kilos is just asking for trouble. I haven't seen any of Ura's bouts besides the ones where he's executed these spectacular throws, but he just doesn't have the body to make an impact in professional sumo. We'll see how closely the press follows this dude as he rises up the banzuke, but I would be surprised to see him as a sekitori within two years of his Jonokuchi debut, which will come in May.  Other than that, there isn't much more to lead with, but we at least had Takamisakari in the mukou-joumen chair today to keep us entertained when the sumo fell short.

With that said, let's now turn our focus back to the day 4 Makuuchi bouts where a former mancrush of mine, Chiyotairyu, made a cameo appearance from Juryo to take on M15 Gagamaru. I don't follow Juryo at all, and so I was surprised to see Chiyotairyu come in at 0-3, but once the bout started, I was like, "Uh! What's become of this guy?" Chiyotairyu didn't even go for a pull in this one just standing there and letting Gagamaru push him straight back and out by the tits in like two seconds..er..flat. Gagamaru moves to 2-2 with the easy win, but the bigger story is what has happened to Chiyotairyu who falls to 0-4?

M14 Sadanofuji has been a beast this basho, and so as M16 Amuuru ducked low in an attempt to get to the inside, Sadanofuji just pulverized him upright and back with such force he drew the uncontested tsuki-dashi win in a matter of seconds. Sadanofuji is cruising at 4-0 while Amuuru takes his medicine at 2-2.

M16 Chiyomaru moved right at the tachi-ai in order to set up some kind of tsuki-otoshi, but it was the lamest move you care to see as M13 Sokokurai easily adjusted with the right arm to the inside and accompanying left at the belt giving him moro-zashi, and Chiyomaru didn't have a chance from there giving up the easy yori-kiri loss. Both guys end the day at 2-2.

M12 Chiyootori charged low into M15 Toyohibiki, but he was rebuffed straightway by the Hutt's girth, and so he resorted to plan B which was to mawari-komu left in an attempt to time the cheap pull. It took two rotations around the ring before Chiyootori realized the pull was not going to work, and so he got the left arm firmly to the inside that set up the right at the belt on the opposite side, and now Chiyootori was ready to score the force-out win. Youth won out here as Chiyootori moves to a cool 4-0 while Toyohibiki is slowly fading at 2-2.

M12 Kotoyuki just blasted M14 Arawashi off of the starting lines with his effective tsuppari, and he almost created too much separation between the two, but he caught up in time and fortunately didn't try any shenanigans sticking to his tsuppari guns and just bludgeoning Arawashi around the ring and out picking up the solid oshi-dashi win. Kotoyuki moves to 2-2 with the nice performance, and I didn't catch a bark today, but he could have done it before I slowed down the feed (I fast forward in between bouts). Arawashi falls to 1-3 and lost this one from the tachi-ai.

M11 Kyokutenho grabbed the early left outer grip from the tachi-ai, but he had nothing with the right to keep M13 Ikioi at bay, and so Ikioi established the right to the inside, and as Kyokutenho pivoted left to set up a throw or dashi-nage, Ikioi just stayed snug and easily forced the Chauffeur back and out. The Osaka native is even steven now at 2-2 while Kyokutenho is circling the drain fast at 0-4 now.

M11 Osunaarashi delivered two sharp tsuppari at the tachi-ai knocking M10 Kitataiki so silly that the Ejyptian just assumed the right inside position and left outer grip from there, and with Kitataiki likely still seeing stars, Osunaarashi drove him back for the wham bam thank you ma'am yori-kiri. Just like that, Kitataiki's hot start is cooled as he suffers his first loss while Osunaarashi exhibited some of his best sumo ...well...ever today as he he moves to 2-2.

At this point of the broadcast, they walked us down memory lane going back to the 1967 Osaka basho where two dudes, Fujinokawa and Fukunohana, were engaged in such a fierce brawl that Fukunohana slapped Fujinokawa's top-knot completely out of place so that Fujinokawa's locks were flowing down across his shoulders just like Tarzan. Fujinokawa ended up wining the bout and collecting his money with his sweet hair unbridled, and as I watched the bout, I couldn't help but think back to the last time two Japanese rikishi went at it this hard (I'm still thinking for the record). You also watch the desperation in this bout displayed by both rikishi, and you definitely don't see similar effort from guys losing to the Ozeki these days.  Sumo's runnin' out of true badasses like Fujinokawa.

M10 Kyokushuho flirted with moro-zashi at the tachi-ai, but he didn't move forward enough and just demand it, so M9 Yoshikaze was able to slip to the side and create separation. Shuho's response to the that was a lame pull attempt, and that gave Monster Drink the opening he needed as he ducked low and to the inside shoving Kyokushuho around the ring and back for the solid win. Yoshikaze breathes a bit easier at 2-2 while Kyokushuho has just been floundering this basho at 1-3. Dude looks injured to me.

Against M9 Jokoryu, M7 Homarefuji stuck to what has gotten him to this point in the basho...his tsuppari. After knocking Jokoryu back initially, Jokoryu moved laterally throwing a wrench in the bout and causing Homarefuji to start a pull attempt which gave up his momentum, but he wisely didn't follow through on the move and used a brief tsuki-otoshi to square himself back up, and then he finished Jokoryu off without argument using his trusted tsuppari. Homarefuji is on a roll at 4-0 while Jokoryu has done well to stay 3-1 with that ailing leg of his.

I'm not sure what M8 Tokitenku was thinking at the tachi-ai against M6 Aminishiki, but it was almost as if he was going for a keta-guri because he lifted his hands up high as if to immediately pull. We'd never find out, though, as Aminishiki blasted his way into Tokitenku's grill using two tsuppari so fast and effective they completely knocked the Mongolian off of his perch. Tokitenku's answer was to turn 180 degrees giving Aminishiki an opportunity at some cheap manlove, but instead of riding his gal all the way to the edge, Aminishiki just swung the hapless Tokitenku down by the back'a the belt. Aminishiki is 4-0 if ya need him while Tokitenku is a hapless 1-3.

M6 Kaisei largely ignored M8 Shohozan's tsuppari from the tachi-ai and just lumbered forward with his big paws using a right arm into Shohozan's armpit and a left paw to his face to completely throw him offline. As Shohozan looked to reload, Kaisei just kept coming, and when Shohozan attempted a 360 to get the hell outta harm's way, Kaisei connected on dual shoves sending Shohozan across the rope and down. Kaisei has seem to struggle a bit this basho, but he's still 2-2. Shohozan, on the other hand, is getting his arse handed to him at 0-4.

M5 Toyonoshima easily got both arms inside at the tachi-ai against the upright M7 Tokushoryu, but before he could establish moro-zashi, Tokushoryu went into retreat mode and looked to attempt one of those downward swipes at Toyonoshima's dickey do.  Before he could execute the move, however, Toyonoshima just planted both hands into Tokushoryu's gut and used his momentum against him shoving him back and across the bales without argument. Good stuff from Toyonoshima as he moves to 3-1 while Tokushoryu is the inverse record.

M4 Tochinoshin and M3 Takayasu hooked up in the migi-yotsu position where Takayasu actually had the left outer grip, but he angled his body far enough to the side in order to keep Shin away from the left outer that Takayasu wasn't properly established with the right on the inside to make a move. As a result, Tochinoshin led the dance, but Takayasu was just too big to really bully around in quick fashion. Takayasu gave Shin a scare with a dashi-nage attempt, and so as the two squared back up, Tochinoshin went for a quick ke-kaeshi leg trip. The momentum shift gave Takayasu and opening, and he pounced driving Tochinoshin across the dohyo, but at the edge, Tochinoshin used that right position to the inside to scoop Takayasu across and down to where his right hand just did touch the dirt before Tochinoshin stepped out.

Takayasu had trouble getting back atop the dohyo after this one, which signals a possible kyujo. It'd probably be just as well with Takayasu now at 0-4 while Tochinoshin is still in the thick of things at 3-1.

M3 Aoiyama put both hands at M5 Endoh's shoulders at the tachi-ai not really going for a move, and so Endoh swiped at Aoiyama's left arm with the right hand sending the M3 over to the edge of the dohyo. Aoiyama looked to counter with a pull attempt as Endoh charged into him, but the Bulgarian lazily just stepped back across the bales in the process giving Endoh the easy pushout win. The flow of this bout looked legit, but I question Aoiyama's intent because he did nothing at the tachi-ai nor was his heart into any kind of counter offensive near the edge. You contrast that to the desperation of both rikishi at the edge in the previous bout, and Aoiyama was too mukiryoku in this one for my taste for whatever reason. Endoh soars to 3-1 while Aoiyama falls to 1-3.

Sekiwake Terunofuji used a left kachi-age at the tachi-ai to keep M4 Takekaze at bay, and then as Takekaze backed out trying to time a pull, Terunofuji just wasn't playing ball. Remember, Terunofuji is defensive-minded first, and so with Takekaze darting this way and that threatening pulls, Fuji the Terrible just stood there watching him. In the end, Terunofuji offered enough swipes, shoves, and pulls using good de-ashi to corner Takekaze near the edge before sending him easily across with some final shoves. Terunofuji, who breezes to 4-0, showed some signs of Hakuho today in his manner of fighting when both rikishi are separated. As for Takekaze, he falls to 0-4 to the surprise of no one.

To say that M1 Tochiohzan charged at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Goeido would be a lie, but he did just stand there nicely with both arms to the outside giving Goeido moro-zashi for free. With Tochiohzan failing to go for a counter pull, counter evasive maneuver, or even a kote-nage, Goeido just drove him straight back and across the straw. The Ozeki may as well have been fighting a blowup doll here as Tochiohzan (1-3) was futile in giving Goeido his fourth win in as many tries.  You look at the pic at right, and you see at least one guy that was way into the bout while his opponent was merely looking for a place to plant his foot outside of the ring.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku and Komusubi Myogiryu hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu position where Myogiryu actually had the Ozeki lifted so upright the frontal outer grip was there for the taking. Myogiryu's right hand fumbled around the Ozeki's belt area twice, but he just couldn't quite grab that belt darn it. Kotoshogiku had to have sensed it at this point because he mounted his force-out charge driving Myogiryu straight back to the straw. Myogiryu didn't bother moving to either side or threaten with a tsuki-otoshi just standing upright and letting Kotoshogiku hump him back and across. I wish I had an explanation that would please all of the readers as to why Myogiryu failed to grab the right outer grip or counter laterally near the edge, but I don't, so suffice it to say that Myogiryu falls to 2-2 while Kotoshogiku enjoys a 4-0 start.

Ozeki Kisenosato and M1 Takarafuji hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu position where neither combatant enjoyed an outer grip. Pressing their chests together hard, each jockeyed for the right outer grip, and after about 20 seconds, Kisenosato finally got one fold of Takarafuji's belt with the right, which he used to bully Takarafuji over to the edge and across with little resistance from the M1. I know some will say, "This one was totally legit. Can't you at least give credit to one of the Japanese Ozeki?" The answer here is nope. Takarafuji coulda kicked Kisenosato's ass today had he wanted. Furthermore, if Kisenosato was capable of forcing a bout to the belt like this, we'd see the majority of his bouts follow this pattern.  When a JPN Ozeki wins all by himself on a day I report, I'll gladly point it out.   In the meantime, Kisenosato improves to 2-2 while Takarafuji is biding his time at 1-3.

In one of the most anticipated bouts of the basho, Yokozuna Hakuho and M1 Ichinojo hooked up in the migi-yotsu gappuri position from the tachi-ai where Ichinojo's left outer was more towards the middle of the belt. You couldn't see it from the main camera angle, but Hakuho's left outer was near the front of the belt, and this allowed the Yokozuna to easily lift Ichinojo over to the side and force him out in three uneventful seconds. Something tells me that Hakuho isn't going to allow the Japanese media to experience any glee by shouting a Hakuho loss from the rooftops. There are only three rikishi whom Hakuho is only partly concerned about (Ichinojo, Terunofuji, and Harumafuji), and so to see him dismantle one of them in this fashion today is scary. The Yokozuna is 4-0 while Ichinojo falls back two steps now at 2-2.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji stepped out left as he is wont to do grabbing the quick outer grip and using M2 Sadanoumi's forward momentum against him as he just spun the youngster around and down in less than two seconds. Nothing to see here folks as Harumafuji stays one back'a Hakuho at 3-1 while Sadanoumi is an expected 0-4.

The normally wild and crazy Osaka basho has been just the opposite so far, and as is usually the case, Hakuho is in full control of everything. It's probably best for everyone not to tick him off further. Just sayin'.

Back at you tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Lots of good sumo today: hard hits, forward motion, emphatic wins, many, many yori-kiri kimari-te. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Hakuho's match today, or any day thus far this spring. He is looking half like our winner, half not. Three days, three wins, but zero "oooh" wins. So my normal reaction would be to think it is Harumafuji's turn--but no, he loses today (see below). So how about Kakuryu? Out. Then...Ichinojo? Nope--lost weakly to Tochinoshin.

Who? Who? Dare I say...Terunofuji? Dread I say...Goeido? Way, way to early to make predictions like this, but let's do it anyway: how about a three way yusho race, with Goeido fading at the end but getting his 13, and real drama with Hakuho stepping aside for The Future. Let's hope. Remember, Osaka is traditionally the wild-'n-crazy basho of the calendar.

But why not Hakuho? Yes, he could start the march to 40 this tournament. Heck, he probably will. But he looks angry to me.
On day two when he won, the crowd mumbled with disgusted disappointment, and Hakuho grabbed that cash bundle and glared around like the Picked On Kid With Dignity Who Will Later Grow Big and Strong and Get Rich and Make You Look Like a Fool, Fool!

But why is he so angry? Let's take a brief trip back in time; this appeared in Sumotalk last tournament: "ex-Ozeki Chiyotaikai called a mono-ii, and after the discussion they said Hakuho did win. Yes, to discuss and get it right is important, but somehow this gave it a sense that it was a grudging and halfhearted upholding of Hakuho's win--it fit unpleasantly in with how everyone in the arena wants to find any excuse to see Hakuho lose, and how when he doesn't there is this palpable, insulting, disrespectful air of disappointment. The judges are probably blameless in this, but it contributed to the deflated, dissatisfied atmosphere that surrounds Hakuho's advance. Well, Hakuho grabbed the giant pile of cash envelopes and stalked up the hana-michi--I may have imagined it, but he looked angry." Day 13, the day he complained about, right?

Wrong. That was Day 7. On Day 13, after another mono-ii--consider, another mono-ii during a 15-0 march to the most hallowed record in all sumo--Mike wrote this: "In watching the slow motion replays, I actually thought that Kisenosato touched out/down first, but the judges ordered a do-over, and frankly, I was okay with the call it was that close." I agree with Mike--I'd have called a mono-ii too. Why, then, was Hakuho so angry?

Mike was good enough to enlighten me pre-tournament when I asked: they do use instant replay (and a little transmitter in the ear) when making the decisions. And although day 13 was close, Hakuho is right when he says it was obvious in the replay who was the winner: he was. And that was not just any ol' day, it was the day he set the record for most career yusho ever. So, day 7 may have set the scene, but the scene has been set for years, and day 13 put him over the edge: calling for a do-over was like picking up dog-do and smearing it all over his Certificate of Achievement before handing it to him with a facile smile: "here ya go!"

And he still. looks. mad. The question for me is whether he says "fine, Fine! I'll knuckle under again! Sorry!" Or if he says, "I've had it with this. Here's another 15 wins, friends. Boil that in your chanko." Based on his sumo so far, I'm not sure which. He's still the story though, so let's start with him.

I already gave it away: Yokozuna Hakuho (3-0) beat M1 Tochiohzan (1-2) by hiki-otoshi. It was weak, though. Hak bashed into Tochiohzan at the tachi-ai, then stepped aside and Tochiohzan fell down. I am as responsible as anyone for calling foul on Hakuho's attempts to lose, so I might as well be fair: Tochiohzan looked so unnatural here, looked like HE was trying to lose. Why? I have no idea. What matters is that Hakuho for the third day in a row chose not to advance past the pitching rubber, so I'll say it again: not sure which Hakuho we're getting here. If he's going to be angry, please be I Will Destroy You Like Asashoryu Did angry, not I Am Confused And Frustrated angry

I already gave the other Yokozuna result away too, but it was a better match: M1 Ichinojo (2-1) beat Harumafuji (2-1). Actually, it was an excellent match. Harumafuji hit Ichinojo as hard as he could--and this Yokozuna hits hard--and it didn't move The Mongolith a centimeter. So, Harumph tried to pull The Iron Blob of Gravity Grease down--and again the Blubberlith barely shook. Then Ichinojo engaged, spun Harumph around, and pushed Harumph down on his ass just before Ichinojo himself, who had to lean down to finish Harumph off, also fell on his kiester. (Two dudes sat down to dinner, both broke their chairs.) Ichinojo is, I think, still figuring out where he stands in the division, and didn't always try real hard the last two basho. But he looked to have nothing to lose this match--and he didn't lose.

Matches of the Day
Sekiwake Terunofuji and Komusubi Tamawashi came off the lines with a fearsome, fleshy, "pop" that favored the Mountain of Terror (Terunofuji). However, Snack Break (Tamawashi), as much as I make fun of him for his boring sumo, is a solid veteran, and he did something to Fuji the Terrible I hadn't seen before: fierce neck shoves that turned the momentum, momentarily took Mount Terror off his game, and drove Teru back to the straw. However, Terunofuji adjusted quickly himself, and used both arms to sweep Tamawashi off of him for a moment. Tamawashi then made a tactical error, abandoning the neck and trying a more conventional, lower down force-out: he had Terunofuji near the bales and knew it. Unfortunately for him, Terunofuji is powerful, stubborn, and steady, and Tamawashi's inability to thrust him back gave him a chance to work towards what he wanted: a belt grip. After a few tense moments of exchanged thrusts and shoves, Mt. Terror made an improbable reach over Snack Break's left shoulder and grabbed a right outer belt grip. That was all he needed; one second later Terunofuji (3-0) literally picked Tamawashi (0-3) up off his feet and threw him down to the clay like a bag of broken taconite in Hibbing, MN. My favorite outcome in sumo is a powerful throw (I miss vintage Kaio), and this was a classic uwate-nage. The Future.

I adore M6 Aminishiki. Sneaky? Yes, often true. But for my money there is also no one who so consistently demonstrates rock solid technique, in-dohyo snap thinking, and use of tactical advantage to beat bigger, tougher looking foes. Sumo-ancient now at 36 and working with bad knees for half a decade, I have been waiting for him to collapse for years, but he keeps sticking to the top of the banzuke through savvy. Today against huge, not-so-dumb-himself M4 Tochinoshin, Aminishiki first slipped out to his left to reduce Tochinoshin's power and size advantage. Next, he cautiously engaged him, without over-committing, until he could get a left outer. Realizing he was near the edge, rather than overplaying this grip, he chose to get Tochinoshin hip to hip and start spinning him off that hip, which requires much less force than pushing him straight backwards. He spun him around fully twice before pausing to regain his own balance and see if he had disoriented Tochinoshin enough to pull a winning move. Finding he hadn't, he resumed the spin, and this time Tochinoshin (2-1) ran over Aminishiki's (3-0) widely planted legs and was tripped over and out in what was, however, rightly called uwate-nage--the trip was incidental to what Aminishiki was leveraging with one simple left hand grip. Ah, sumo. When I love it, I love it.

With shades of Kakizoe, M2 Takarafuji did the "honor thing:" put both fists on the ground and wait for Ozeki Kotoshogiku's charge--a charge which, I have to be honest, looked great. In about one second flat Kotoshogiku slid Takarafuji out yori-kiri, the picture of youthful Ozeki power... Mebbe Takarafuji (1-2) was honoring something else. Dunno. Lemme go back to saying this did look great by the Geeku (3-0). I'll take it.

Ozeki Kisenosato, blinking furiously, looked nervous before the tachi-ai: here is a sign of a guy with some pride who knows 0-2 Ozeki ain't no good. His performance in the match lived up to what he needed to do in this position. He was aggressive on the tachi-ai, got one arm inside of M2 Sadanoumi and one out, and, probably most important, kept both feet moving in tiny little hops as he drove forward to the easy yori-kiri win, improving to 1-2. Wish we could see this Kisenosato every day. U-No-I-Am-Sad falls to 0-3, and is probably significantly over-ranked this tournament.

Today's Ozeki Goeido bout was instructive. Matched up with Sekiwake Okinoumi, Goeido tried a henka, but it was a false start. His surprise blown, Goeido had to fight straight up. He did this well for a moment, pushing Okinoumi and getting what looked like a strong inside left. However, he chose to use that grip to pull, circling around and pulling Okinoumi (0-3) down by shitate-nage; as he did so he swept one of his feet across the bales, barely missing the sand below, and as that finished he had his other foot precariously perched on those same bales. In other words, he was a hair's breadth from losing with both feet. This is why Goeido (3-0) makes us gnash our teeth: as an Ozeki, he should be able to dominate an over-ranked Okinoumi, but instead he resorts to fear and abandons force, and there is no satisfaction in watching him win this way.

The Rest
I've been reading Sumotalk for a long, long time, and when Mike Wesemann tells me to remember something, I do. This appeared in Sumotalk in 2011: "the last time a Japanese rikishi took the yusho was Kaio in Aki 2004, and ever since that time, I've been waiting for Japan's next. Goeido gave me hope several years back, and deep down, I haven't abandoned him completely, but Japan's best contribution to sumo without question in 2010 is a guy named Tatsu who is currently ranked Sandanme 11. Tatsu entered sumo at the Natsu basho and promptly posted records of 6-1 his first three tournaments. Ranked near the top of Sandanme in Kyushu, he finished just 4-3, but the kid was bigger than Hakuho when he entered sumo out of junior high school. I also love that he's a member of the Takadagawa-beya, which belongs to former Sekiwake Akinoshima. Those of you privileged to have watched Akinoshima fight during his prime in the 90's know what a relentless bulldog this guy was. If Akinoshima can instill the mental toughness he exhibited during his career into his prodigy, the sky will be the limit. Tatsu. Remember the name."

Two or three years after that, I hadn't forgotten, but I was thinking, "heh, that Tatsu never turned up!" Wrong. Today, rechristened "Fried Mosquito" (Kagayaki), he had his first ever match in Makuuchi, appearing as an injury replacement, and he has been looking pretty good getting here--this is just his third Juryo tournament, he is still just 20 years old (yes, Mike spotted him at age 16), and at 192 cm and 155 kg, he will be one of the biggest guys in Makuuchi. All I can say is, props. I don't care if it sound like backscratching: how many future rising stars did you pick out of Sandanme in 2011?

That said, Fried Mosquito looked like crap today falling to 1-2 as M16 Chiyomaru (2-1) calmly kept him upright, pushed him around the dohyo, and forced him out oshi-dashi with nary a moment of danger. Well, give Mosukito Furai time. He may not be the "next," but he will surely be fun.

M15 Toyohibiki is under-ranked, while M16 Amuuru is probably at his peak, and it showed in this one. After an uninspiring tachi-ai where they placed their hands on each other's shoulder fronts, the bigger, stronger, more experienced Toyohibiki (2-1) pushed Amuuru (2-1) out, oshi-dashi. Toyohibiki's one dimensional sumo gets exploited in the upper ranks, but down here things should feel comfortable for him.

M15 Gagamaru (1-2) won a strange one against M13 Sokokurai (1-2). It looked to me like a false start by Sokokurai, as Gagamaru was still twirling one fat fist and clearly hadn't touched it down, but the gyoji let it go. This should have favored Sokokurai, but maybe he also sensed it should have been a matta, or felt guilty, because he lurched weakly into a soft Yubabamaru embrace and then got walked out, oshi-dashi. Easy as goin' to the corner store with 5 cents from mama to buy a Mr. Goodbar.

Loud, emphatic, fun tachi-ai from M13 Ikioi and M14 Sadanofuji, after which they disengaged and Ikioi went for wild roundhouse up-and-down-slaps and Sadanofuji more wisely chose forward-backward push slaps. Still, Sadanofuji didn't so much win this as Ikioi lost it; it was one of those where the loser looked mostly to suddenly step forward and fall down of his own accord midway through. Sadanofuji (3-0) gets credit for the tsuki-otoshi win, but Iiiii (1-2) has looked awful this tournament and something seems wrong; it's like he wants to go down to Juryo to get a breather. Fight like this and he will.

I have liked M14 Arawashi's style--he takes what is given and fights hard. However, I think I also overestimated him: he is too small and has too little power, and is unable to do much of anything with guys with more chops. Like today's opponent Chiyootori, who at M12 is under-ranked. Oot-Bird (Chiyootori) just kept moving forward, arms extended and butt back, and Arawashi (1-2) had nothing to counter with, losing by dominant yori-kiri. The Oot is 3-0.

I loathe M12 Kotoyuki and his show-offy pre-bout antics, so I was delighted Hakuho said something pre-tournament. I was even more delighted to see old-school, straight-up sumotori M10 Kitataiki soundly defeat Kotoyuki today in a hard fought, bruising thrust-fest. Kitataiki was in control and had faster, more intense shoves from the beginning; all Kotoyuki did was react. When one of those reactions was too slow, Kitataiki (3-0) used that moment to get an arm inside, and it was yori-kiri curtains for Little Snow (Kotoyuki, 1-2).

Under-ranked M9 Jokoryu (3-0) and M11 Kyokutenho (0-3) both went for belt grips, and it was Jokoryu who used his inside grip to turn Kyokutenho around and yori-kiri him out in seconds flat. I've been waiting for years now for Kyokutenho to suddenly run out of gas and show his age, and this tournament looks like the time may be now. However, I've thought that and been wrong more than once, so I hope I'm wrong again. Kyokutenho has had a high quality career.

Mabba flabba ma gagga ma gaa-a-aaaa! That is my description of M9 Yoshikaze's (1-2) high-energy sukui-nage dismantling of overwhelmed M11 Osunaarashi (1-2). Or, pick your own collection of random hyperactive syllables: sometimes Yoshikaze's bouts are so dynamically kinetic I despair of breaking them down. Gack! Ack! Back! Win!

M10 Kyokushuho (1-2) didn't look great in beating M8 Shohozan (0-3) by hataki-komi, but I think the cat is out the bag on Goldenrod (Shohozan): he's just too small, and if guys can withstand his mega-power-attempts for a few moments, they can find an opportunity to beat him. That's what happened here; Shohozan was driving Kyoku back with workmanlike punches, but after Kyoku had gauged this for a few moments he just grabbed GoldenChild by the head and shoulders and pulled him down ahead of his own imminent exit over the tawara.

I said at the top there was a lot of good sumo today, and Homarefuji (3-0) was one of the executors; you will never see a more dominant win than his brutally efficient tsuki-dashi force out of M8 Tokitenku (1-2) today. This had my attention, as Homarefuji has shown an interesting trajectory over the past few basho. I think I once compared him to moldering cheese left on the shelf, because he is a late bloomer, but that Kelly feller pointed out early that he has powerful forward movement. Moreover, he should be over-ranked this tournament, as he got over-promoted due to last time's dearth of guys with high win totals. But here he is, 3-0 at M7 and looking like a living thunderclap while taking on a guy who many disrespect but is a tough, mean veteran and no pushover. This guy is popping and my eyes are open.

I think butterball M7 Tokushoryu is weak stuff and way over-ranked, and M5 Endo's win over him was just as easy as it should be; Endo (2-1) got underneath and got a dominant oshi-dashi win over Toku (1-2). Now Endo has to do this against better wrestlers.

Ah, Takekaze. No one has annoyed me more the last five years then this henka-prone Hokutoriki-lite wrestler. Problem is, he has to henka frequently because he is too small to consistently win straight up. Today, he went for an Honest Abe straight forward power tachi-ai against the behemothic (no, that is not a real word) Kaisei. It didn't move Kaisei at all, and M6 Kaisei (1-2) simply drove M4 Takekaze (0-3) out yori-kiri. Kind of sad. Ah, fate.

Contrast that to the atmospherics and results of little M5 Toyonoshima and behemothic (I like it) M3 Aoiyama. Toyonoshima pretty much always fights straight up, and so is one of the most adored Maegashira stalwarts of the last decade. Like Takekaze, he chose a straight up tachi-ai, but unlike Takekaze, it worked. While getting battered by Aoiyama's patented meat-slab-thrust-blows, Toyonoshima (2-1) kept calm, kept pushing, and eventually, kind of shockingly, drove Aoiyama (1-2) out oshi-dashi. What's the difference between Toyonoshima and Takekaze? I dunno, but it's something like grit.

The M3 Takayasu / Komusubi Myogiryu bout was played fast and over fast; they mutually chose lightning-quick slappity-slap tsuppari. But tsuppari is a dumb, losing style, and Myogiryu (2-1) won by abandoning it first, switching in a nice stiff hand to the neck instead and converting that into a yorikiri defeat of Takayasu (0-3): like a dragonfly buzzing frantically about and getting caught--gzpp!--by a praying mantis that just stretches out its reapers and puts an end to all the commotion. Good to see Myogiryu back up high and fighting well.

I'm not sure who's up tomorrow, but I'm betting its Big Fun featuring Kane. Turn on the jets.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The day started out with NHK featuring newly-promoted Sekiwake, Terunofuji, and I couldn't help but notice how the dude already looks like an Ozeki to me, especially in the current landscape of sumo. They showed clips of a lengthy interview with the youngster, and while his Japanese isn't yet at the level of Hakuho or Asashoryu, it's really good and already better than Harumafuji and Kakuryu. The keiko scenes were also crisp, and the more I see of this guy, the more I really like him. I'm not sure how hard the NSK and/or media will hype him, but they definitely gave him his due diligence today. Contrast Terunofuji with the current crop of Ozeki, and it's the Mongolian who exemplifies everything good about sumo. Neither Kisenosato nor Goeido can create anything from the tachi-ai, and while you can at least define Kotoshogiku's brand of yotsu sumo, that Kelly feller was right yesterday when he said that you want to get the belt against the Geeku because the Ozeki isn't strong enough anymore to bully guys out on his own. Kisenosato, Goeido, and Kotoshogiku are Ozeki in name only. If you're new to sumo and want to know how an Ozeki is really made, start scrutinizing Terunofuji.

As I am wont to do, let's begin the commentary at the bottom and work our way up, which means we start with M16 Amuuru and J1 Kagamioh. For a guy with Amuuru's size, it's a waste to create your signature style as one where you duck your head low and keep your hips back in the grapplin' style. Sure, it worked today where the Russian was able to retreat quickly to the left and pull at Kagamioh's extended left arm for the hataki-komi win, but it's ugly, useless sumo that won't work a half dozen notches higher in the ranks. Nevertheless, Amuuru is off to a 2-0 start.

For as large and round M16 Chiyomaru is, M15 Toyohibiki could never quite connect with his target. Maru was able to use two hands to the throat and then retreat a second after the tachi-ai forcing Toyohibiki to "keep up" with the legs instead of driving them hard into his retreating opponent. At the edge, Chiyomaru was able to slip to his left and pull Ibiki down with a swipe at the left side. Two bouts and both victors won with retreating sumo from the start. Not a great sign as both fellas end the day at 1-1.

Credit M14 Arawashi for charging straight into M15 Gagamaru and coming away with a left frontal belt grip as Yubabamaru tried to push him away by the face. As Arawashi looked to pull his gal in tight, Gagamaru's belt loosened weakening Arawashi's position, and so he pivoted laterally, got the right arm to the inside, and used sheer grit to turn the tables on Gagamaru at the edge and force him out. I can't help but think that a lot of guys would have tried to sidestep Lord Gaga today, so it was good to see Arawashi (1-1) delve right into his craw and pull out the victory. Gagamaru's return to the dance hasn't been sweet as he falls to 0-2.

M13 Sokokurai ducked in for the early right belt grip, which turned out to be an outer against M14 Sadanofuji, and having established the outside without anything inside, Sokokurai was in a pickle against the much larger Sadanofuji. Sokokurai kept his can far away from Sadanofuji's right outer grip attempts, but after a few swipes at the belt, Sadanofuji just mounted a surprise charge leading with the left inside forcing Sokokurai out before he could fully slip to his right. Great stuff from the SadaMight who'll enjoy this 2-0 start. Sokokurai suffers his first defeat.

M11 Osunaarashi abandoned his powerful right kachi-age today against M13 Ikioi for some finesse tsuppari and a fruitless face slap with no legs behind the tachi-ai. Ikioi said thank you very much by swiping away Osunaarashi's arm and just driving straight into him scoring the force-out win. As for Osunaarashi's part, he did little to counter keeping his right arm to the outside and high and not attempting a lateral move near the edge. If you really want my opinion on this one, Osunaarashi was totally playing ball here for the hometown kid. Osunaarashi falls to 1-1 while Ikioi reaches the same mark.

At the rikishi all-hands meeting prior to the basho, Hakuho called out M12 Kotoyuki for his little routine right before he squats for the final time where he makes a sound as if he's hocking a loogie into his fist. The Yokozuna was quoted at the event as saying, "You're not a dog, so stop barking." Kotoyuki exhibited one of his loudest barks ever on day 1, and I think it was an attempt to dis the Yokozuna upon the heels of this supposed scandal where Hakuho criticized the judges. It looked as if Kotoyuki was going to refrain from the bark today against Kyokutenho squatting near the starting lines when it was time to go (jikan desu!), but then he quickly stood back up and offered a quick bark into his fist receiving a large response from the crowd. It's really getting ridiculous now, and I'm surprised that the Sumo Association hasn't stepped in by now. Just ask yourself, "If this was a Mongolian performing this shtick, what would be the reaction from all parties?" Course, the Mongolians are out there to perform stand-up sumo, not to make a name for themselves with gimmicks that aren't practiced in morning keiko.

When the real sumo began, Kotoyuki offered his usual stiff tsuppari into M11 Kyokutenho with good de-ashi, and Tenho's reaction was a quick pull attempt. Didn't work as Kotoyuki was moving forward too quickly using a right fist into Tenho's gut to keep him from side-stepping to his right sufficiently. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am as Kotoyuki moves to 1-1 while Kyokutenho is still winless. Before we move on, Kyokutenho really showed his age in this one.

M10 Kyokushuho used a lame left hari-te and an even lamer attempt to grab the cheap outside belt grip, so M12 Chiyootori's response was a deep right arm and sweet de-ashi which he used to drive Kyokushuho straight back and out. I'm not sure how gimpy Kyokushuho's legs are this basho (they're taped up purty good), but he was beaten in all facets today as he falls to 0-2. Chiyootori is 2-0 after the easy victory.

M10 Kitataiki and M9 Yoshikaze engaged in a hidari-yotsu contest that saw Yoshikaze stay way low in an effort to get to the inside, but Kitataiki insisted on lifting his gal upright with the inside position, and at Yoshikaze's first attempt to move laterally, Kitataiki pushed him upright with a left palm to the face and then cornered him with the right leg tripping Yoshikaze backwards and down near the edge. Like Kyokutenho, Yoshikaze suddenly looks like a geezer out there in his movements as he falls to 0-2 while Kitataiki is a cool 2-0.

M8 Shohozan showed some fire as he pounced straight into M9 Jokoryu's grill with his usual tsuppari attack, but it was mostly bark and no bite allowing the hobbled Jokoryu to escape left at the edge and pull Shohozan outta the ring by the right elbow. Mundane sumo all the way around as Jokoryu moves to 2-0 while Shohozan is grasping at 0-2.

M7 Tokushoryu henka'd to his left against M8 Tokitenku hooking him with the left arm and then pulling him in tight where Tokushoryu had the right inside and left outer before Tokitenku knew what hit him. Tokitenku could do nothing from this point as Tokushoryu executed the quick force-out win, but how 'bout setting it up with straight forward sumo? I've seen more toughness on stage at the ballet than I saw from Tokushoryu today as both he and Tokitenku finish at 1-1. Wait, did I just admit that I attend the ballet? Oops.

Looked to me that M6 Kaisei had the clear path to the inside with the right arm at the tachi-ai against M7 Homarefuji, but he did nothing with it opting to stand straight up and offer some weak shoves. Homarefuji responded by moving to his right and yanking Kaisei's left arm pulling the Brasilian completely forward and off balance. Homarefuji cleaned up the mess straight way with the uncontested push-out win. I saw zero effort from Kaisei in this one, and it's interesting when you see such a forceful-looking win from a guy who did nothing to set it up. Homarefuji is 2-0 while Kaisei falls to 0-2.

M6 Aminishiki ducked in low keeping his arms in tight denying M5 Toyonoshima moro-zashi from the start, and so Tugboat next looked to move to his left in an effort to set up a kote-nage or a tottari throw on that side, but he didn't wrap up Aminishiki's right arm sufficiently, so Shneaky used that same arm to to sort of forearm Toyonoshima off balance near the edge allowing Aminishiki to pounce quickly from there and score the methodical push-out win. Aminishiki rules the M6 roost so far at 2-0 while Toyonoshima falls to 1-1.  This happened to be the 1,260th time that Aminishiki has fought a Makuuchi bout, and it puts him in a tie for 6th place all time with...Kotonowaka, which means this is a largely meaningless milestone.  A more meaningful mark is something like Gangstuh-no-sato's becoming the 6th man in history to notch 900 career wins, something Wakanosato achieved today with a win over Daido.

M4 Takekaze charged low with both hands near M5 Endoh's neck before quickly backing up and sorta offering a pull attempt. Endoh looked to catch up with his legs and pin his retreating opponent near the edge, but it wasn't necessary as Takekaze backed all the way out of the ring in about two seconds. During the slow-motion replays, NHK showed a close-up of Endoh in an effort to focus on what he did to win this bout, but there really wasn't anything of substance there. I know it goes down in the books as oshi-dashi, but Takekaze did all the work in this one as he gracefully exits stage left at 0-2. Endoh moves to 1-1 with yet another bout of undefined sumo.

The timing at the tachi-ai was off just a bit between M4 Tochinoshin and M1 Ichinojo allowing Shin to pounce early and establish the deep right to the inside. Ichinojo had his own right ham to the inside on the opposite end, but Tochinoshin pinched into it nicely on his way to the outer grip. With Ichinojo's left arm up high and as far away from a neutralizing outer grip as it could be, Tochinoshin wasted no time here ducking his head into the Mongolith and forcing him back and across with little argument. I think Tochinoshin is into Ichinojo's head a bit of late, and Ichinojo's looking uncomfortable at the starting lines and charging anyway didn't help matters further. Tochinoshin moves to 2-0 after defeating one of the tougher opponents he'll face while Ichinojo's lethargy continues at 1-1.

In a compelling bout between two Sekiwake for all intents and purposes, M3 Aoiyama failed to realize that Sekiwake Terunofuji is a defense-first guy who doesn't necessarily come with a crashing tachi-ai, and so Aoiyama gained nothing from the initial charge offering only a few light thrusts in an attempt to more or less feel out his opponent. Terunofuji sensed the situation well and abandoned his right inside security blanket in place of tsuppari matching Aoiyama's tit for tat, and the younger Terunofuji easily used his de-ashi to stand Aoiyama upright and drive him straight back for the oshi-dashi win. You can just sense it with Terunofuji this basho as he moves to 2-0 while Aoiyama falls to 1-1.

M2 Takarafuji established the firm left inside position from the tachi-ai today against Sekiwake Okinoumi causing me to note that this same resolve was curiously absent in his bout yesterday against Ozeki Goeido. Okinoumi countered with his own left to the inside, and both rikishi dug in for over a minute as they jockeyed for the right outside grip. The angle both rikishi were positioned put Okinoumi closer to the right outer, but he wasn't strong enough to bully his way into it, and so back and forth they went stuck in the hidari-yotsu position. In the end, Takarafuji attempted a left inside belt throw at the edge, but Okinoumi survived with a counter right tsuki-otoshi that turned the tables and created separation. Now in a pickle, Takarafuji got the hell outta there quickly retreating across the dohyo and just managing to catch Okinoumi with a tsuki-otoshi of his own felling Okinoumi to the dirt before Takarafuji was driven back. Great chess match here and one of he finest displays of sumo we've seen from two Japanese rikishi in a long time. Takarafuji moves to 1-1 while Okinoumi falls to an expected 0-2.

Komusubi Myogiryu charged low and hard directly into Ozeki Kisenosato's torso using the right inside position as an anchor, and despite Kisenosato's instinctive retreat back and to the side where he offered a timid left kote-nage attempt, mYogi Bear had Kisenosato forced back and out before he could say a-boo-boo-boo-BOO! Kisenosato falls to 0-2 and has fought about 5 seconds' worth of sumo thus far, so that tells you how badly he's getting his ass kicked. Myogiryu moves to 1-1 with the sweet win and we'll see what he chooses to do when he faces Kotoshogiku.

Well, the crowd is working themselves into a big ruckus, so that can only mean one thing: the mighty Ozeki Goeido (play along with me, will ya?). At the tachi-ai, M3 Takayasu used a lame hari-zashi attempt slapping with the right and flirting with the left inside, but there was no effort to establish that left to the inside, and so Goeido latched onto it offering a kote-nage throw that didn't quite work, but Takayasu played along and took the knee anyway. It's actually quite difficult to describe wins by Goeido or Endoh because they do so little to actually achieve the victory. Contrast that to the Takarafuji - Okinoumi contest where each move is succinct and makes sense. Today's sumo was a complete mess that ended in an unorthodox fashion as most Goeido wins do, and I haven't been buying it from day 1 if yer wondering. Goeido is an expected 2-0 while Takayasu is still winless.

Komusubi Tamawashi just stood there at the tachi-ai accepting the hidari-yotsu contest with Ozeki Kotoshogiku and showing little resistance. Despite having the clear path to the right outside, Tamawashi refrained and then also somehow forgot to lift the Ozeki off balance and upright with the left hand on the other side, so as Kotoshogiku readied himself for the big moment, Tamawashi played the part of his dutiful wife and took it all in stride. Easy force-out win for the Geeku who improves to 2-0 while Tamawashi falls to 0-2. I know a lot of you sit on my predictions just waiting to point out when they're wrong, so I'll save you the bandwidth on this one. In my pre-basho report I stated that Kotoshogiku would be treated as the red-headed step child when the opposite has been true. Kotoshogiku has received two gifts in as many days while Kisenosato's opponents haven't let up a bit. I think what's going on is that everyone has the general perception (including me) that Kisenosato is the better Ozeki, and so there has been no mercy shown his way so far, but watch for that to change quickly.

For the second day in a row, Yokozuna Hakuho charged straight into his opponent, but terminated his de-ashi once he reached the center of the ring. Against Sadanoumi today, the Yokozuna eventually worked his right arm to the inside as Sadanoumi looked to establish his own right arm to the inside knowing full well that the Yokozuna was going to grab the left outer once he did. After a few seconds of grappling chest to chest, Hakuho finally did grab that left outer, and once obtained, he threw Sadanoumi over and out for the uwate-nage win without really planting his feet properly. Not sure why Hakuho did that, but it was sorta like an unnecessary utchari from well within the ropes. It's when I see stuff like this throw today and a very unorthodox bout against Myogiryu yesterday where I can only wonder what is going on in Hakuho's mind. Neither Myogiryu nor Sadanoumi have the ability to halt Hakuho's charge, and yet, two days in the Yokozuna has yet to set foot in the Western half of the dohyo. It's curious, but I'm sure it will all play itself out as Hakuho moves to 2-0 while Sadanoumi is an expected 0-2.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji charged straight into M1 Tochiohzan catching his gal with the extended right paw to the throat and standing Tochiohzan so upright that the immediate push-out from there was academic. HowDo lays the wood to another Japanese elite rikishi moving to 2-0 in the process while Tochiohzan is 1-1. You can't always say things like "Well, rikishi A beat rikishi B, and rikishi B beat rikishi C, so when A and C meet up, A will definitely win." I think that way of thinking does apply, however, in the case of Harumafuji, Tochiohzan, and Kisenosato in illustrating just how wide the gap is between the Yokozuna and the Ozeki.

There's still plenty left to breakdown, so I'll turn the reins over to Harvye for day 3.

Day 1 Comments (PZ Kelly reporting)
Yall might be able to glean, from my past writings, that I'm not a big fan of censorship. Nor am I fond of stupidity. So when I find the two married in the very popular phrase, "Haters gonna hate" you can imagine the ants in the Clanc pants. I gits fidgety.

Fortunately, every two months I am presented with a chance to let it all out here on Sumotalk (or, if you read it while melting chocolate and marshmallow on a graham cracker, S'motalk). Without overstating things, The Man will always try to control the narrative, and portraying those that disagree with it as "troublemakers" using "hate speech" is so common as to be banal.

But when The People fall in lockstep, and start unthinkingly characterizing every attempt at criticism (a noble and long standing tradition in the human intellectual universe) a matter of "hate," when the act of not showering something with reckless, unadulterated love is automatically consigned to the "hate" column, cultural wide tabooing, if you will, of discussion and dissent is not far behind.

I'll not go into a long sociological treatise here; suffice it to say, that Kelly feller's opinion is that people ought to grow the fuck up.

I guess that rant came from my having just read Mr. Weezmann's Pre-Basho Report, a must for all of you it goes without saying. Also, though his girly nerves show from time to time in answers that never end, I highly recommend Mike's interview with DonRoid (sounds like an Australian telling someone how to get to a gas station) on that podcast link. It's nothing that I haven't heard (literally, as we speak on occasion) before, but you'll likely find it diverting. And Mr. Roid is not only a pretty good interviewer, but had his shit down about sumo, along with not horrible pronunciation of the names. Highrecc.

I think I'll start out with Hakuho as he was taking on one of my favorite rikishi (and for those of you who want to say that word with correct JPese pronunciation, say "lickee she" and then "dickee she" and then find a spot between the two and you've got it--and who WOULDN'T want to find a spot between "lickee" and "dickee"?) in Myogiryu. The common perception of Myogi Bear is that he's small, but hes a mere 7 kilos lighter than the Yokozuna, and only 5 cm (colloquially known as a "matra," when referring to penis length) shorter. So their matchups ought to be decently contested.

Today Myogiryu went high at the tachi-ai, using a slightly backstepping two-handed slapdown on Hakuho's arms to get the Yokozuna, who was coming in hard and low, a touch off balance. Kublai was able to arrest his forward motion and turn back to the Komusubi, who was in the midst of flailing on one leg to recover from getting hammered back so hard. Hakuho went to grab his right arm and Myogiryu tried to pull away from it and without two feet caused himself to roll down and off the dohyo, while Hakuho rolled himself onto the clay. Furious and exciting, but for three seconds only (which, coincidentally, is ALSO known as a "matra," when referring to sexual intercourse).

If you're wondering why the bout was so slapdash, there are two reasons: 1) Myogiryu knows Hakuho will steamroll him if he gets the mawashi, so tried from the gun to prevent that, and 2) Hakuho knows that among the JPese rasslers out there, Myogiryu is one who can be relatively dangerous, who has skill and wabisabi savvy, especially at the Sho-nichi Komusubi vs. Yokozuna rank, and thus brought his own A-game in order to avoid the upset. The size differential referred to above certainly DOES matter, but it's (duh) the overall skill level and speed of the GOAT that sills the dill when these two meet.

Don't be shocked, tho, when Myogiryu takes down Yokozuna Kakuryu. . .huh?? Damn! First we lose Spock and now we lose Kak? Who's next? Hak? Ichinojo-oooooooooh got a freebie (and for you young fellas hep to 70s sex slang, that's NOT the same as a "quickie," so put your dicks away) and I'm predicting HUGE things for The Mongolith this basho (like yusho if Hakuho in fact DOES drop out). Itchy Koo Park gets Tochinoshin on the morrow, and if he owns The Private in that tussle we will know he's out for blood this March.

Hailing from the same yurt (in fact, rumor has it they suckled at the same milkmaid teat), Harumafuji (my pronunciation lesson above perhaps illustrating why I call him HowDo) looked across at Tamawashi with undisguised sibling rivalry (and a smattering of, "Huh? WTF are YOU doing back up here?)

Enough parenthesis, Kelly!

At any rate, Tamawashi came in strong, knocking the Yokozuna back a bit. He followed that with an attempt to shove, but Harumafuji was too close and it left Tamawashi with his elbows bent, hands high. You might ask, Well, why didn't the Komusubi at least TRY to put his hands lower and go for the belt? Well, after seeing HowDo get the belt and easily manhandle his countryman back and out you'll know the answer: Tamawashi does NOT want to get into a belt battle with this man. But he did. And he lost. Tama-chan will be lucky to make 5 wins this time out.

Tochiohzan provided the late theatrics with a thorough ass-kicking of Ozeki Kisenosato. Oh Snap got inside at tachi-ai and pushed upward on Kisenosato's increasingly flabby titties (maybe some of these JPese dudes ought to hit the weight room a bit more often), moving him back and close to a loss. The Kid recovered for a brief moment, breaking away and trying to drive forward, but the M1 stifled him and resumed his pressing, pushing him ignominiously out with relative ease for the win. Kisenosato lay on his back in the pricey seats, and my thoughts harkened back to Mike's description of Kisenosato in the podcast, when asked to give a short summary of each top guy.

Sadanoumi might be having trouble paying his electric bill recently, because his inexplicable choice to raise his right hand, which was ON Kotoshogiku's mawashi, up to the Ozeki's neck implies a need for funds. Maybe he has nuptials coming up? Blatant let up and gift to Geeku. And if you're wondering why I am not applying the same logic here as I did with Tamawashi, I'll tell you: You WANT to get into a belt battle with Kotoshogiku.

Osaka native Goeido got the legit win over a guy who doesn't have much in the way of counter for someone coming in tight, low, and hard in Takarafuji. Goeido played it perfectly in front of the home crowd to set up an intriguing battle tomorrow vs. Takayasu, who normally don't take no shit and who will, I'm predicting, defeat the Ozeki if the bout is fought without shenanigans.

Why do I say this? Because today he took on East Sekiwake Terunofuji and delivered on everything but the finish. Moving quickly into a yotsu standoff, the two men got mirrored belt grips and well, stood off. After a lengthy and heavy breathing affair, Takayasu made a valiant push forward, but the technically superior Terunofuji was able to twist his exhausted foe down before being pushed out. I say Takayasu will beat Goeido on Day 2 because how often do we see a man or team in sports come close one day/season but fall short, only to come back the next day/season and take it all? (Yeah, I'm basing it on THAT flimsy of an idea.)

And I think that Terunofuji, after being extended for so long on Day One, is going to have problems with a crafty and rested Aoiyama, who today let Sekiwake Okinoumi come forward like he owned the place, only to turn the tables on him at the edge and plunder him down to the clay without breaking a sweat. Not usually a fan of retreatzumo, today I think Aoiyama was clever in capitalizing on what he knew was Okinoumi's eagerness to prove himself worthy of the Sekiwake rank. Large guys can back up and win at the edge if they have the skill to slip away, which young pirate Ahoy Yama has. It won't ever get him to the rank of Ozeki, but it can earn him a bottle of rum for a good long time to come.

The aforementioned Tochinoshin was pitted against E4 Takekaze, who was Sekiwake in Sept. of 2014, then Komusubi in Kyushu 2014, before M9 in Hatsu 2015, where he impressed me with his straight up sumo and the banzuke builders with his 9 wins. Tochinoshin had to be wary of "little man sumo," tricky and sidestepping maneuvers entirely legal and legit, but hard to anticipate. Takekaze, however, played it clean, and was deflected off his larger foe at tachi-ai and forced to slip away at the edge and regroup for the attack. No Shine was able to shine by getting his arm on the back of Takekaze's neck and pulling him and down by sukui-nage.

I purchased my first cell phone, a so-called smart phone, ever last year when I came back to "Murica, and now I find that my laptop NOT correcting my spelling for me as I type pisses me off.

Toyonoshima looked all Rwandan mountain gorilla vs. Endo, squatting down and staring at his M5 counterpart while he fussed and twitched like he was a prize passion fruit to be devoured. And that he was as Toyonoshima was able to fend off Endo's slapping and pushing long enough to find an opening to slap away the hands and send Endo off balance and lateral, allowing Tugboat to steam in and ram the youngster out by oshi-dashi. Excellent veteran silverback sumo.

One could be forgiven (maybe even two or six could be) for thinking that big, young Kaisei was going to put a hurtin on lil ol Aminishiki, who, let's face it, is the definition of hurtin vis a vis legs. Well, those six knowitalls would be erroneous as Shneaky was able to get a quick front mawashi grip, and used that to maneuver the Brasilian around and off balance where he seemed to be easy pushout pickings. But Kaisei did not DESIRE to be pushed out, so Aminishiki obliged by dragging him forward by the back of his belt and slinging him down like so much 24 hour diner roast beef hash.

The 7s squared off with Homarefuji taking on Tokushoryu. Tokushoryu got blasted back at the start, and in his efforts to defend himself, inadvertently popped Homarefuji in the eye socket. Homarefuji hung on long enough to get the deserved win, but was holding his eye (not literally, not like a worry stone) as he was declared winner. Let's hope (as if our hoping could do SHITE about it) that he is unaffected and can continue on Day 2.

Tokitenku was on the defensive the entire match vs. Shohozan, but one particular swipe to the mug sent Shohozan off to the side at a 90 degree angle to the Mongolian, who moved swiftly around and in to force his foe out via with a hand on the back of the mawashi and a large paw on his throat.

Yoshikaze moved to his right at the start and with Jokoryu reading it perfectly was forced to keep moving till he was out. Not much energy expended by the Jokerman today, but he's gonna need as much as he can muster tomorrow when Shohozan comes out pissed off about losing to such a washed up rikishi as Tokitenku today. As for Yoshikaze, he takes on Kitataiki, who is returning from a very successful stint down in the Ten Cent Division, where picked up his second career Juryo yusho in January.

Today he stayed solidly centered on Kyokushuho's chest right from jump street, and got the easy win as Kyokushuho slipped to his keister after an unsuccessful attempt at a headlock throw.

Kyokutenho snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as he railroaded Osunaarashi back and out in record time, but as the two men fell, the most recent JPese citizen to take the Makuuchi yusho put his arm down to brace his fall and had the gyoji's call in his favor overturned by the Robes after a hushed and august conference atop the sacred dohyo. Osunaarashi gets the lucky win.

When Chiyootori and Kotoyuki went at it, the ending produced one of the oddest sights I've ever seen in sumo. From the tachi-ai Kotoyuki brought some hard piping shoves, which were dished out in return by Chiyootori, who also made a few attempts to get him some belt. After both men nearly grabbed each other's topknot, Chiyootori gained the upper hand and ran Kotoyuki out.

And then it got weird. Looking like he was just walking off the dohyo, Kotoyuki hit the floor standing up, but then just pretty much flipped himself head over heels about four rows deep into the crowd, like some teenager flipping himself into an in-ground pool. If you didn't see it and can find it on the computer, you ought to check it out. The crowd reacted like someone had deep fried their sashimi.

After initially getting in and driving Sokokurai backward, hometown boy Ikioi could not finish and was himself driven back across the ring and out no problemo. Ikioi beat only Endo on his way to a 1-14 in January, and if he doesn't reverse his fortune here and now, he could be gone down to Juryo by May. It would be a shame to see a guy who took the yusho in his first basho in Juryo and who has done well in high Maegashira and even reached Komusubi fall out of the division when we need all the excitement we can muster. Sokokurai seems destined to eke out his living down at the bottom of Makuuchi, which is still a pretty damnably good result for any sekitori.

Arawashi seemed to run backward and away from Sadanofuji. Lesson here is don't put all your chips on being able to grab a forearm as you're going out and reversing fortune.

Two of the most spherical fighters in the world went at it as the TRUE Round Mound of Rebound Gagamaru, back from Juryo after nearly a year's banishment, took on his Hutt Brother Toyohibiki. After shoving Toyohibiki back to the edge, Gagamaru tried to pull, and that was a mistake as Toyohibiki came across the dohyo and showed Lord Gaga how a hataki-komi pulldown is done. Bam!

Finally (firstily?) tall Russian Amuuru fought off an unrelenting pushing and shoving attack by Chiyomaru, and when the opening arrived, slid in and danced his partner out via a smooth as you please yori-kiri.

Well, the rumor mill has it that the only guy on ST who has tapped more fine tail than yours truly is back this basho to wield his mighty wit, so don't be looking here for any eye candy photos of hot chicks, or a parade of shapely bottoms. . .oh, allright, but just this once. See you on Day Eight.

Mike putts one into the clown's nose for a complimentary round tomorrow.























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